If you find yourself with ongoing jaw pain you’re already familiar with how uncomfortable it can be. Jaw pain has a variety of causes, including an abscessed tooth, gum infection or biting down on hard candy or ice.
Another common culprit is temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction. TMJ can crop up in the temporomandibular joint (the joint that connects your jaw to your skull) and can arise from injury to this joint. You might find yourself with TMJ/TMD from the following leading causes:
Causes of TMJ Jaw Pain
-Misalignment in the jaw (malocclusion)
-Trauma to the teeth or jaw
-Grinding the teeth, often in one’s sleep (bruxism)
-Having bad posture
-Experiencing ongoing stress that causes jaw tension and clenching and stressing the joint
-Degenerative osteoarthritis or other types of inflammation like rheumatoid arthritis in the jaw joint
-Constantly chewing gum, leading to jaw pain (myofascial pain)
In the case of trauma, bruxism from grinding the teeth and clenching (jaw tightening) can alter teeth alignment. But it can also create inflammation surrounding the jaw joint. In addition, trauma from an injury or accident can break the jawbone and dislocate the jaw joint.
If you find yourself with jaw pain, it can travel to your neck and shoulder areas and leave you with muscle spasms. You might feel pain when you yawn or chew your food. This jaw pain can show up in the jaw joint, the front of your ear, face, scalp, or jaw area, and you might end up with headaches and dizziness. Left untreated, TMJ can give you earaches, tinnitus (which is a ringing sound in the ears) and even loss of hearing.
Treating Mild TMJ Symptoms
Treating mild, infrequent TMJ can often be done at home and may include over the counter anti-inflammatory medications to minimize your symptoms. For a TMJ flare up, temporarily switching to a soft foods diet can give the joint a much needed chance to rest and recover.
Resist opening your jaw widely when yawning or speaking, and stay away from constant gum chewing or chewing on hard items like candy. Gentle jaw stretches and stress-reducing relaxation exercises often provide relief, as can applying warm compresses for 20 minutes off and on to the jaw joint, and gently massaging the joint.
Treating Chronic TMJ
More serious ongoing TMJ pain may require medical intervention. Our doctor may recommend a jaw splint (an oral device worn over the teeth like a mouth guard), physical therapy (PT), counseling, muscle relaxants, painkillers, BOTOX to relieve muscle spasms, among others.
Jaw splints are designed to redistribute the pressure on the teeth when biting down. This also helps lessen teeth grinding and jaw clenching and can be worn at night. If these methods don’t provide relief, surgery such as arthrocentesis may be an option. This is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that provides relief for joint stiffness from fluid buildup.
If your jaw pain doesn’t go away and also includes clicking and popping noises, earache with ringing sounds, headaches, stiff and sore jaw muscles, or locking of the jaw joint, we encourage you to seek professional help, especially if it is severe. We invite you to call our office and talk to one of our team. You don’t have to live with chronic jaw pain; effective solutions are available!