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- What Is Jaw Pain?
- Diagnosing Jaw Pain
- What Causes Jaw Pain?
- Help for Jaw Pain
- More Information about Jaw Pain
What Is Jaw Pain?
Jaw pain is pain in the jaw joint or surrounding tissues. Jaw pain can be due to many causes. It is commonly a symptom of Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD). Frequently, people refer to TMD as TMJ disorders, but that is incorrect terminology as TMJ is just an abbreviation for the name of the joint between the upper and lower jawbones. Jaw pain can also be provoked by many other factors.
How Is Jaw Pain Diagnosed?
A dentist will discuss your symptoms and evaluate if they are signs of TMD. Signs of other health conditions may be considered as well.
The dentist will perform an examination to see if your jaw clicks, grates or makes popping noises. Your jaw joints will be checked to see if they have a tendency to lock when your mouth is fully open. Jaw movements and the positions of your teeth and jaw will also be considered.
Oral X-rays will be employed, and sometimes an MRI or CT scan is ordered.
Your dentist may then refer you to a specialist. For example, if he or she believes that you have a difficult case of TMD, you may be referred to a maxillo-facial surgeon or an oral surgeon.
What Causes Jaw Pain?
Jaw pain usually results from problems of the jaws, muscles and connective tissues surrounding the mouth. It can also be due to sinus problems, cancer, ear infections, tooth problems or stress.
Jaw pain can be a sign of a heart attack. A sudden unexplained onset of jaw pain should be evaluated immediately, especially if accompanied by nausea, difficulty breathing, rapid or irregular pulse or dizziness. Jaw pain in the presence of a heart attack may or may not be accompanied by chest or left arm pain. If these symptoms occur, call 911 immediately.
People of all ages may experience jaw pain and TMD, but it is most commonly diagnosed in women between the ages of twenty and forty. Those who have jaw pain due to TMD often experience neck, shoulder, ear or facial pain. Sometimes headaches occur, and swelling may be present. All of these help confirm a diagnosis of TMD.
If jaw pain is caused by TMD, a structural problem may be present. It may be congenital or due to a poor bite, or from clenching or grinding teeth without knowing it. Arthritis and injuries such as whiplash can also be causes, as well as anxiety. Poor posture and habits such as leaning the hand on the jaw to support the head while sitting or holding a telephone against the shoulder may elicit pain. Finally, crooked or missing teeth may cause malocclusion which can contribute to jaw pain.
Help for Jaw Pain
Conventional practitioners may recommend NSAID drugs, but they can cause bleeding, stomach upset and other health concerns. Additionally, mainstream practitioners may recommend muscle relaxers or medications to reduce stress. These may help the jaw but can cause drowsiness and a multitude of other side effects.
Homeopathic remedies promote relaxation of the muscles surrounding the joints and tissues.They can relieve pain, reduce swelling and improve circulation to the jaw area, and are well tolerated, easily administered and virtually free of harmful side effects.
Simple home solutions such as applications of warm or cool packs can be very effective in reducing symptoms of TMD. Massage, exercises and physical therapies are beneficial as well. Dentists may recommend wearing splints or night guards to relieve or prevent jaw pain. Low level laser therapy, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), ultrasound and trigger point injections may also be employed, and in serious cases, surgery may be needed.
What Else Do I Need to Know about Jaw Pain?
- Eat soft foods that are easy to chew. Avoid foods that require you to open your mouth wide. Avoid chewy and hard foods.
- Get routine dental checkups. Follow your dentist’s recommendations about preventative care.
- Limit situations where you may need to yell or sing loudly. Do not chew gum or eat sticky candy.
- Learn relaxation techniques. Progressive muscle relaxation exercises for the face and upper body are particularly effective.
- Be aware of your body. Try not to clench your teeth when stressed. Practice keeping your jaws slightly apart regularly.
By employing a variety of strategies, you will be on your way to relieving jaw pain.