Jaw Pain, or temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) , is a term used to describe a group of symptoms including headaches; facial pain; jaw pain; sore, chipped or worn teeth, clicking or popping sound in the jaw, limited mouth opening and limited jaw movement.
Because TMJ is a dysfunction of the jaw joint, jaw pain is a very common symptom. A “bad bite” occurs when the upper and lower teeth do not come in contact with each other in a proper alignment causing disturbance in the placement of the jaw and the surrounding muscles. This imbalance in the bite-jaw-muscle relationship is what causes the pain in the jaw. Pressure and forces on the teeth can cause bone to dissolve or extra boney projections to be built up.
Jaw pain can be in the jaw muscles, the jaw joints, or both. Most of it comes from the muscles that move the lower jaw. One of the muscles, the temporalis, spreads out like a fan on the side of the head and reaches downward to grab the lower jaw.
The jaw pain is usually radiating to surrounding structures making the diagnosis a bit difficult. Many physicians are not familiar with the temporalis muscle and mistake the pain from this muscle for migraine. Some patients actually have pain inside the jaw joint itself. If there is discomfort in the jaw joint, the joints will hurt when you try to bite.
This disorder of the jaw or temporomandibular joint can cause severe pain making daily chores almost impossible; you can’t smile, you can’t eat, and you can’t speak. Jaw pain can start with an accident, a long dental visit, or without any good reason. Acute jaw pain is when the pain begins suddenly and it’s very severe. Chronic jaw pain is when the pain starts gradually and persists.
Jaw pain causes the jaw muscles to tighten, which in turn holds the jaw in one place. Unfortunately, the jaw muscles then go into spasm, become inflamed, and cause more jaw pain. Jaw muscle exercises can be helpful because they increase the blood to the tight jaw muscles. As patients with jaw pain find it difficult to chew food, they can’t chew food resulting in deficiency in nutrition and their immunity is decreased. The body becomes weak and this results in increased pain stimuli.
Symptoms of Jaw Pain
The symptoms you may be experiencing include:
- Pain and soreness in your jaw joint and muscles of your face
- Noises in your jaw joint such as clicking or popping sounds
- Difficulty opening or closing your mouth
- Your jaw locking open or closed
- Difficulty chewing food
- Your teeth don’t come in contact with each other or don’t occlude.
- Difficulty in opening the mouth wide
- Ringing in the ears
- Grinding your teeth
- Sleep problems
Causes of Jaw pain
There are few medical conditions which might possibly cause Jaw pain or temporomandibular joint disorder. There are likely to be other possible causes, so ask your doctor about the other symptoms.
Jaw injury, Accidental injury to the jaw, Jaw arthritis, Jaw alignment disorder, Sinus infections, Toothache, Infections in the surrounding glands glands, Caffey’s disease, Dental surgery, Wisdom tooth extraction, Jaw tumor, Jaw cyst, and dental pain.
Sometimes the pain occurs from other infections like the nose infection, Para-nasal sinus infection, dental caries, acute post-extraction osteitis, acute maxillary sinusitis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Osteoarthritis, Septic arthritis, Herpes zoster, Migraine and Referred pain from coronary artery insufficiency. Some bad habits like Teeth clenching, Nail biting, Teeth grinding and bruxism can also result in chronic jaw pains.
This information refers to the general prevalence and incidence of these diseases. There are still many cases of jaw pains in which the etiology is still known. Only 40% of cases of jaw pain occur from the above medical conditions and habits, rest 60% are still unknown.
Treatment of Jaw pain
You can take a moist hand towel dipped in Luke warm water, and place the towel on your face surrounding the jaws. Make sure the water is not so hot to burn your face. Now slowly open your mouth as wide as you can and close it. Repeat this exercise for some time, the moist hot towel will initiate blood supply to the jaw muscles and the joint. This results in opening the muscle spasm, but this works only if the condition is not so severe.
Sometimes gentle massage can help reduce the pain. Massage the muscles on the outer surface of your face and then place your thumb or forefinger inside the mouth and the other finger outside the mouth. Gently squeeze the muscles between your two fingers and rub the jaw muscles from inside and outside the mouth.
You can also fill your bathtub with hot water and immerse yourself almost totally in the hot water so that your entire face is covered. This can often help the patient sleep well. Motrin and Nuprin are the best over-the-counter analgesics. However, they only reduce the pain temporary, when administered. If you stop the analgesics, the pain starts off again. It’s not a cure to jaw pain.
It is important for patients with jaw pain to remember to stay healthy and eat properly. There are many causes and that’s why it is so difficult for many doctors to diagnose. One cause is nutritional deficiency in vitamins, like Vitamin C or Vitamin E. It can even be caused by a mineral deficiency in magnesium, calcium, or any of the other minerals required by your body.
If the patient cannot eat food, it’s better to give then healthy liquid diet containing most of the nutrients. By taking lot of fluid or juices, you can replace the solid food. Maintaining oral hygiene is very important, because many times such patients develop dental caries or periodontal problems due to poor oral hygiene. As mouth opening is limited, a person with jaw pain can’t brush, hence Luke water gargle or mouth wash gargle helps relieve pain temporarily and also prevents oral infections.
Sometimes injecting antispasmodic drugs or muscle relaxant in the TMJ join can reduce pain. A neuromuscular dentist can help alleviate jaw pain related to TMJ by realigning the bite. Once the jaw is back into its most relaxed position, the surrounding muscles can also resume their natural function.