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Learn Why You Have Jaw Pain and the Treatments for It

Having pain in your jaw with no apparent reason can be puzzling, leaving you with uncertainty as to what to do about it. Your jaw joint, technically called the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), could very well be where you feel the pain, but there are other problems that may be the actual cause of your jaw pain.


Symptoms of Jaw Pain

Symptoms can vary widely, and you may have several of the following symptoms:
  • Clicking or popping sound in your jaw when opening or closing your mouth

  • Pain while chewing

  • Swelling on the side of your face

  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw joint, your face, and neck and shoulders

  • Possible lockjaw.


Other symptoms may include:


  • Headaches

  • Dizziness

  • Toothaches

  • Ringing in your ears

  • Earaches

  • Difficulty hearing.


Jaw Pain Causes

Jaw pain often has some simple explanations, such as chewing too much gum. Other causes of TMJ pain may have serious consequences that will need further diagnosis and treatment. The possible causes include:


  • Teeth Grinding (Bruxism) – This problem is often done without people even knowing it. They do it in their sleep which can seriously damage the teeth by chipping or cracking them. Many people who grind their teeth also have sleep apnea – which needs diagnosis and treatment because it can be fatal.


  • Jaw Clenching – This habit can be done in the day or night. It can also crack teeth or chip them. Holding your jaws tightly against each other stresses the TMJ and your teeth, which leads to pain. Stress makes the problem worse.


  • Poor Posture – This problem causes TMJ pain because it adds stress to the lower jaw because this posture moves the lower jaw forward. It causes the teeth not to fit well together, and it moves the skull forward.



Whiplash

One study reported that one in three people who had experienced whiplash trauma may develop TMJ symptoms that will require treatment. Female victims in rear-end collisions were more likely to experience TMJ problems as a result.


The following problems are often referred to as temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TJD):


  • Jaw Injury – If you have received a blow to the jaw or joint, it can damage it.


  • Arthritis – This common disease can damage the cartilage in the joint, causing the moving parts to move incorrectly.


  • Incorrect Alignment – The disk in the TMJ may become eroded if it has moved out of its correct alignment.


  • Abscessed Tooth – The inflammation from an abscessed tooth can cause jaw pain. Because the infection continues to spread, an abscessed tooth needs to be treated. It can be fatal if it is not treated.


TMJ Treatment


Several treatments are available for TMJ pain from a TMJ dentist. They can also provide relief from a TMJ headache.


  • Medications – You can usually take over-the-counter pain medications and anti-inflammatories – NSAIDs – to get some TMJ pain relief. A dentist may also prescribe tricyclic antidepressants which are often used for pain relief, or muscle relaxants. In some cases, Botox (botulinum toxin) may be used.


  • Exercises – Special exercises for the jaw can help provide relief of jaw pain. The dentist will provide them.


  • Mouth guards or oral splints – In the case of bruxism, a mouth guard is needed to protect the teeth from further damage. An oral splint is a hard acrylic device that fits over the upper and lower teeth and helps to prevent teeth clenching and can provide relief from jaw tension.


  • Physical Therapy – This is a standard practice to help strengthen the weak jaw muscles. It can also help to regain mobility in the joint and provide TMJ pain relief.


  • TENS device – The transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS, is used to rapidly exercise the jaw muscles. It can strengthen the weak muscles and also provide pain relief.


Steroid Injections


When there is a problem with degeneration of the jaw joint, such as the damage from arthritis, an injection of a steroid will often be used. It will help to reduce swelling and the pain.


TMJ Surgery


In more extreme cases, surgery may be required to correct the problem. Surgery may involve arthroscopic surgery, or a surgical remodeling of the surface of the joint to enable it to move smoothly.


In cases where the joint has been severely eroded due to arthritis or damaged from an injury, it may require TMJ replacement surgery. This operation will give the patient a new jaw joint.


If you have TMD facial pain and are looking for TMJ pain relief, you can contact Dr. Kumar T. Vadivel, DDS, FDS RCS, MS, a Board Certified Periodontist. He can provide you with various treatments and TMJ remedies, as well as customized mouth guards and splints to help with bruxism. He has offices in the Carrollton, TX and Grapevine, TX areas. For a consultation with a TMJ specialist, you can contact his office today at (817) 756-8578.


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