Death can be associated with TMJ disorder, but not in the way you might be thinking.

Problems with the temporomandibular joint is very common among people of all ages.

It’s natural to wonder if a person can die from a severe form of TMJ disorder.

Pain Level Is Not Indicative of
Death Associated with TMJ Disorder

“TMJ disorders are occasionally associated with cancers of the jaw, salivary gland, brain or even metastasis from lung cancer or breast cancer,” explains Brijesh Chandwani, DMD, BDS, Diplomate, American Board of Orofacial Pain, with Connecticut & NY TMJ.

Dr. Chandwani continues, “Interestingly. TMJ pain in such cases is usually not very severe. A previous history of cancer or family history of cancer should serve as a red flag (scary finding), and medical attention is deemed critical.”

So can TMJ disorder, in and of itself, ever kill you?

Not directly. But if there’s an untreated—and thus growing—cancer somewhere that’s causing symptoms that are mimicking the classic benign TMJD—then it’s the cancer that will be life-threatening.

However, if you begin developing symptoms of TMJ disorder, they are far, far more likely to be benign in origin than from cancer.

Dr. Chandwani also explains, “An autoimmune condition called temporal arteritis affects patients of age 40 and above and if untreated can lead to blindness. Jaw and temple pain is often the only symptom in temporal arteritis.”

Have These Symptoms?
Get Immediate Attention

“Sudden jaw pain, bite changes, trouble moving the jaw, numbness in the face or jaw, changes in taste” warrant immediate medical attention, says Dr. Chandwani.

Sudden jaw pain, by the way, can also be a sign of a heart attack.

Dr. Chandwani has 10+ years of experience focusing on TMJ disorders and sleep disorders.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. 
References:
– M., et al. “Emergency route diagnosis of mucoepidermoid carcinoma initially diagnosed as TMJ disorder.” Spec Care Dentist. 2016 Jan;36(1)
– Dodo M, et al. J Med Case Rep. 2017