Jaw Pain and How It Relates to TMJ Disorder

You may not think much about your temporomandibular joints or TMJ but, believe it or not, these are two parts of the human body that you use the most every day. Every time you talk, chew, swallow or even yawn, they spring into action. Located at the base of the skull and acting as a sliding hinge, the TMJ connects your jawbone to your skull with one joint on each side of the jaw. When temporomandibular disorders (TMJ Disorder or TMD) occur, this can cause great pain in your jaw along with the muscles that control it and facial nerves connected to it.

Woman holding jaw due to jaw pain from TMJ Disorder

Around 12 percent of the U.S. population goes through TMJ disorders at any one time, and it’s not uncommon for people to ignore it or put off seeking help until symptoms grow more severe. This is why, at The Center for Cosmetic Dentistry, we strive to provide all the information needed for you to learn why your jaw ails you and what the problem may be. If you are experiencing mild discomfort or aching pain in your jaw and wish to schedule an appointment to discuss it, we encourage you not to wait and call us at 631-982-9669.

What Causes TMJ Disorders?

Because the TMJ is such a complex joint, determining the exact source of the problem can be difficult. There is currently no universally accepted, full-proof approach to diagnose it. Your pain can be related to a variety of factors, and every bit of information is important for both the patient and doctor. The most common culprits for TMD include Rheumatoid Arthritis or Osteoarthritis, a misaligned bite (error in how your teeth fit together) or eroding disk, grinding & clenching teeth (bruxism), and jaw dislocation or injury. It has been debated whether hormonal causes may play a role too, as women experience TMJ at a higher rate than men.

Disorders can also arise from stress and sometimes genetic factors like autoimmune or connective tissue diseases. If any of these risk factors are present in your day-to-day activity (Ex- habitual teeth grinding/clenching when stressed or performing heavy physical labor), the quickest solution may be to break avoidable habits that place pressure on your TMJ. Fortunately, jaw pain from TMD is temporary in most cases and can be reduced or eliminated with self-managed care or non-surgical treatments. Surgery is usually the last resort after conservative methods fail, but a minority of patients can benefit from surgery.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorders

  • Discomfort, pain, or tenderness in your jaw
  • Jaw clicking or popping
  • Pain/aching in or around your ears
  • Popping sounds in the hears
  • Frequent headaches
  • Prior dental surgery
  • Stiff or sore jaw muscles
  • Pain in your temple area
  • Locking up of the jaw joints, making it difficult to open or close your mouth
  • Difficulty or pain while chewing

Exercises to Help TMJ Disorder

While these simple exercises you can do at home aren’t guaranteed to relieve TMJ pain, they have been known to help:

  • Strengthen your jaw muscles
  • Stretch your jaw daily
  • Relax the jaw
  • Avoid clenching or grinding your teeth when stressed
  • Increase the jaw’s mobility
  • Rest ice packs on your joint
  • Avoid chewing gum
  • Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Ex- NSAIDS)
  • Reduce jaw clicking

When Do I Talk to a Doctor about my Jaw Pain?

If you don’t show improvement with these home remedies listed above and the pain won’t go away, then it may be time to see us. When you schedule a visit, Dr. Shapiro will discuss your treatment options and examine you to narrow down the nature of your problem. If you are suffering persisting jaw pain when chewing or swallowing, call Center for Cosmetic Dentistry at 631-982-9669 today.