• How to Handle Jaw Pain

    Do you feel pain or tenderness in the area in front of your ear, especially when chewing, speaking, or opening your mouth wide?  Does your jaw ever feel as if it is stuck in the open or closed position?  Do you have facial muscle spasms and feel as if your teeth don’t line up normally?  Maybe you hear a clicking or popping sound in your jaw when you open or close your mouth.  Do you get regular headaches that start in the front of your ear and migrate throughout the rest of your head?  If you are experiencing any of these conditions you may be feeling the symptoms of temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) which are problems that affect your temporomandibular joint (TMJ).  This is known as your jaw joint and it can also affect the muscles of the face that help during the chewing process.

    Causes of this disorder can come from trauma to the jaw, tension, poor alignment of the jaw, arthritis of the jaw, and even tumors of the jaw.  The symptoms can be fixed through treatment options.  Diagnosis of this disorder come from your dentist who will ask about the length of the problem you are experiencing.  The dentist will look at your bite, the way your jaw moves, and will feel the muscles in your jaw to determine if there is sensitivity or pain present.  X-rays will be performed that will tell the dentist if the problem is muscular or joint-related.

    Jaw pain can be prevented by using a mouth guard that can relax the jaw and reduce pain associated with grinding and clenching of the jaw.  However, certain conditions cannot be prevented and will require treatment.  Treatment options include the following depending on the exact condition you are experiencing.

    • Soft diets can be a great way to reduce the jaw pain you are experiencing. Avoid hard objects, thick sandwiches, and things that require you to bite with your front teeth.  Cut your food and eat with utensils.
    • Replace missing teeth to keep the jaw in balance when biting.
    • Prescription drugs that relax muscles and reduce inflammation can be used to help alleviate tension in the jaw.
    • Bite adjustment can be performed that allows the teeth to meet naturally.
    • Physical therapy can help with heat, massage, and ultrasound to alleviate pain and loosen the joints in the jaw.
    • Mouth guards are a great way to stop clenching and grinding.

    By using some of the treatment plans above you may alleviate and reverse the symptoms of TMDs in your life.  However, there are certain individuals that are not able to receive relief from the above measures and need to consider surgery.  Arthroscopic surgery can be performed with three small holes around the TMJ.  A tiny camera is placed in one hole and surgical instruments are placed in the other holes and inflamed tissue is removed.  This surgery is highly effective for those who cannot obtain relief in a non-surgical manner.  TMD does not have to be a permanent problem; with treatment and possibly surgery you can get your jaw to move and work properly without pain.

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