Your Health: TMJ Syndrome Affecting My Voice

Dear Dr. Jahn,

I have been told that my jaw pain is TMJ syndrome. It isn’t severe, but it has started to affect my singing. What are my best options for treatment? I’ve been given the impression to just leave it alone and it should get better. Is that correct?



Dear M.L.

If your jaw pain can be traced to a specific incident, especially if the event is recent, it may get better with just rest or anti-inflammatory medication. I am referring, as an example, to a prolonged session with the dentist, where your mouth was held open for loner periods of time, or an episode of chewing something abnormally hard.

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However, if the pain is chronic or due to a faulty habit, such as gum chewing, grinding or clenching, it will not improve with just “rest”. You must address the cause. in the case of grinding ( called “bruxism”). this may involve an oral appliance, physical therapy, or even more unusual methods, such as acupuncture or hypnosis. Rarely, patients with uncontrollable clenching benefit from Botox injection to the masseter muscles. This weakens the strength of the clench, and can relieve pain.

Regarding singing, the main issue in my experience, apart from the pain involved in opening the mouth, is that jaw tension can also increase vocal tension. You will notice this primarily in the mix (primo passaggio) area of your voice.

I would just suggest, before you invest in an expensive appliance or undergo more invasive treatment, that you get a second opinion to make sure you are not missing a structural cause (dental or jaw related).

Dr. Jahn

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Anthony Jahn, M.D.

Anthony Jahn M.D. is an otolaryngologist with a subspecialty interest in ear diseases, disorders of hearing and balance, and disorders of the voice. He is a professor of clinical otolaryngology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and is a noted author of The Care of the Professional Voice. For more resources, go to his website