Dr. Brett L. Johnson

General & Cosmetic Dentistry

What Causes Your Jaw Pain

As anyone who has ever dealt with jaw pain can attest, the discomfort you experience can make talking, eating, and even speaking difficult. Temporomandibular disorders are one of the most common causes of jaw pain, and can cause poor function in both the jaw joint and the muscles used to move for movement. These disorders are also referred to as TMD, or TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders. Over 10 million Americans suffer from TMD, according to the National Institutes of Health, with the condition being more common in women than in men.

TMJ symptoms can range from the mildly uncomfortable to the life altering. In less severe instances of the condition, TMJ can cause a burst of pain to shoot through the jaw joint every time you bite down on a hard piece of food. While uncomfortable, the pain usually subsides within a few minutes. In cases of severe TMJ, the condition can severely debilitate a person’s ability to function on a day-to-day basis.

For example, in some cases TMJ can cause an individual’s jaw joint to slip out of position while they sleep. When the person awakes in the morning, the can only open their mouth a fraction of what they can normally. Not being able to eat breakfast due to an inability to open the mouth can cause a great deal of panic in many people who suffer from TMJ.

Signs of TMJ

If you believe you suffer from TMJ, you might experience symptoms that include:

  • Pain in the jaw joint or chewing muscles
  • Pain in the face, neck, or jaw
  • Stiff jaw muscles
  • Limited movement or a locking of the jaw
  • Uncomfortable popping, clicking, or grating of the jaw joint
  • A change in how your upper and lower teeth fit together

Treatment Options

If you suffer from any of the symptoms listed above, talk with Dr. McDowell about what treatment option might be right for you. A number of nonsurgical treatment options can help you deal with the pain caused by TMJ, while also improving your jaw function. These methods include:

Joint stabilization or bite splint. The most common treatment option for jaw pain and muscle tightness involves the use of a plastic guard that fits over the upper or lower teeth. The guard allows your teeth to move smoothly against one another, which enables the jaw muscles to relax. Splinting also helps to prevent clenching and grinding of the teeth. Usually a splint only needs to be worn at night, but occasionally needs to be worn 24 hours a day in extreme cases.

Physical therapy. Therapy involves muscle relaxation and working to increase the range of motion in the jaw joint. Therapy methods can involve stretching exercises, biofeedback, or ultrasound treatments. The application of warm compresses to the side of the face during treatment can also help to easy pain, while increasing movement. Additional therapy methods can include mediation, acupuncture, stress management, and yoga.

Drug Therapy

A number of prescription medications can also help treat jaw pain, such as anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants in cases where restricted movement is due to muscle spasms.

Most doctors agree that patients suffering from TMJ should try nonsurgical treatment methods prior to undergoing a surgical procedure. Talk with Oregon City family dentist Dr. Johnson about the best methods for dealing with your TMJ.

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