Jaw pain can be caused by dental problems, trauma and a range of other health conditions. The pain can range from mild to extreme. The good news is you don’t have to suffer in silence. After proper diagnoses, a dentist can pinpoint the cause of the jaw pain and give you the treatment you need to eliminate or alleviate the pain.
Structure of the jaw
The TMJ (temporomandibular joints) on each side of the mouth connects each side of the lower jaw or the mandible to the skull. The joints are flexible and can slide, move and rotate in a number of directions as you drink, eat, speak, yawn, floss, brush and do other motions. However, if the TMJ is overused or hurt you can experience discomfort or pain. Any pain or problem that is associated with the TMJ is labeled as a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) or temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder (TMJD). According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the issue affects about 5 to 12 percent of people.
Causes of TMD
There are so many events and lifestyle factors that can cause TMD.
Jaw or mouth trauma or injury: Trauma and injuries can damage or move the TMJ out of place. This can make it hard to move these joints.
Teeth grinding or clenching: Persons who grind or clench their teeth put pressure on the TMJ and this can lead to jaw pain. Grinding and clenching mostly happen when people are sleeping, and you might not be aware you have this issue.
Opening your mouth too wide: When you open the mouth too wide you can strain the TMJ which may lead to TMD.
Rheumatic diseases: Rheumatic diseases like arthritis can affect the TMJ too.
Tension headaches: These headaches, which are mainly brought by stress, can cause pain in the jaw and face.
Sinus infections: Maxillary sinuses are above the top row of your teeth. When they are infected, they can lead to swelling as well as pain around the cheeks, eyes and the upper jaw. People suffering from this condition report a feeling of tight, constant pressure in the upper jaw.
Neuropathic pain: This happens when there is nerve damage. If the damaged nerves are close to the jaw the condition may manifest as jaw pain.
Capsulitis or synovitis: This leads to joint inflammation and can affect the TMJ as well as the connecting ligaments.
Ill-fitting dentures: If your dental dentures don’t fit properly, they cause an unnatural mouth position that can cause or aggravate TMD.
Abscesses, tumors, infected gums, and several other dental problems can cause jaw pain.
Symptoms of TMD
- Migraines or headaches
- Difficulty chewing
- Restricted TMJ movement
- TMJ stiffness
- Frequent jaw locking
Jaw Pain Treatment
Treatment starts after the identification of the root cause of jaw pain. The dentist examines your mouth and jaw thoroughly to determine a treatment plan. X-rays, blood tests, MRI tests, and psychological tests may be needed during diagnosis. Treatment can be as simple as using antibiotics to adopt a soft diet. Some patients must wear mouth guards to discourage bad behaviors and to correct misaligned bites. Steroid injections and other medications can relieve inflammation and swelling. Physical therapy may also be used. If the pain is caused by tumors, impacted nerves, infected teeth or damaged bones surgery may be needed.