TMJ | Mouth and jaw trauma, certain types of dental problems, and other medical conditions can lead to jaw pain. If you are dealing with pain in your jaw, there is no need to suffer in silence. After you have received an accurate diagnosis of what is causing your jaw pain, you should be able to undergo treatment to at least alleviate the pain, if not eliminate it entirely.
It may be helpful to take a look at the structure of the jaw area. In short, your lower jaw is connected to your skull by something called temporomandibular joints (TMJ) found on each side of the mouth. Likewise, these are flexible joints that should be able to readily slide, move, and rotate in different directions whenever you are speaking, eating, drinking, or otherwise opening your mouth. Thus, in cases where the TMJ has been overused, you may experience some pain and discomfort.
Any type of pain or problem with the TMJ is diagnosed as TMJ disorder. Also, it’s more common than you may think. In fact, up to 12% of the population is dealing with this condition at any given time.
What causes TMJ disorder?
It is not always known what causes TMJ disorder, but the following events and lifestyle factors have been known to trigger it:
- Jaw or mouth injuries: Certain types of trauma can damage the TMJ or move it out of its normal position, causing it to move less freely.
- Teeth grinding or clenching: This can place pressure upon the TMJ, leading to jaw pain. You may be grinding or clenching your teeth while you are sleeping without being aware of it.
- Sinus infections: Your sinuses are found over the top row of your teeth. An infection can lead to swelling and pain in this entire area, including the jaw.
- Neuropathic pain: This is pain caused by nerve damage.
- Poorly fitting dentures: If dentures are not fitted correctly, the mouth may be forced into an unusual position that can either trigger or aggravate TMJ disorder.
In short, experiencing pain in the jaw is the most common type of TMJ disorder symptom, but you may experience other signs like:
- Frequent jaw popping or locking
- Difficulty chewing your food
- Restrictive TMJ movement or stiffness in the jaw
Treatment of TMJ Disorder
Once you have received a proper diagnosis, your medical practitioner or dentist may recommend some type of treatment to ease your symptoms. In some cases, simple rest is enough for the condition to resolve itself on its own.
In addition, stabilization splints can be used if your TMJ is thought to be due to teeth grinding and clenching. These are guards for covering your teeth to help reduce pain by giving your jaw a break from the stress of grinding and clenching.