Cheek pain and TMJ are linked. As the inflammation within the temporo-mandibular joint travels outside of the joint area, it can involve many structures in TMJ. Inflammation in general causes redness and swelling when tissues are infected or injured. In the case of TMJ, the jaw joint becomes injured from trauma, arthritic conditions, or other causes. The end result is inflammation develops and causes pain.
Unfortunately, the inflammation does not stay within jaw joint itself in TMJ. Instead it spreads to other tissues around the area. As such, the cheek and temple area of the head and face can become involved. Compared to other causes of pain in these areas, cheek and temple pain with TMJ worsens with jaw movement and improves with jaw relaxation. In contrast, other causes of cheek pain and temple pain worsen with other types of maneuvers. Or the pain does not change with jaw movement at all.
Usually, the pain with TMJ in the cheek and temple area is dull and aching. While these areas might be slightly swollen in TMJ, it is usually negligible. Redness is rarely present. Infections of the mouth or teeth can mimic this pain, as can a rare condition called temporal arteritis which can cause pain in the temple. Lack of fever and a normal dental exam can usually eliminate infection as a cause. Also, temporal arteritis features direct tenderness of the temples to touch which distinguishes it from TMJ.
Since pain in the temple and cheek are due to inflammation spreading from the jaw joint, these symptoms resolve fairly soon after TMJ treatment is started. The failure of these pains to get better with improvement in the jaw symptoms warrants reevaluation.
Other TMJ Symptoms: