Jaw Pain Cause & Symptoms
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ), more commonly called the jaw joint, comprises the mandible (lower jawbone) and the maxilla (upper jawbone). It is because of the TMJ that the upper jaw can come down on the lower jaw to close it and acts like a hinge, and is probably a joint that is used more than the other joints. The TMJ is made up of bones, muscles and tendons, and if there is a disorder of these or an injury, there may be jaw pains. One such pain is connected to a heart attack which occurs in the chest area, but can include the jaw.
Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) are usually caused by problems of the jaw joint, jaw or the adjoining face muscles that enable the movement of the jaw and chewing
They may also be caused by:
• Osteoarthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis
• Clenching or grinding the teeth
• TMJ, jaw, neck or head injury
• Dislodgement of the disc in the middle of the socket and ball
• Feeling of tiredness or swelling in the face
• Locked or stuck jaw
• Unable to open the mouth wide
• Jaw joint, jaw, face, shoulders, neck or ear pain while opening the mouth wide, speaking or chewing
• Jaw joint sounds (grating, clicking, popping) while using the mouth
• Difficulty chewing
• Ringing sound in the ears
• Tooth aches
• Head aches
• Shoulder pain
If you have any of the symptoms, you must visit your dentist; he or she will perform a TMJ examination to check for limited motion, pain, swelling, jaw locking, bite and facial muscle ability. A full-face x-ray, computertomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may also be recommended. If necessary, you may also be seen by an oral surgeon (or oral and maxillofacial surgeon) if surgery is required.
• Eat soft food
• Avoid opening the mouth wide
• Do not put your chin in your hand
• Do gentle jaw and stress relieving exercises
• Massage the joint muscles
• Put hot or cold packs on the affected jaw area
The dentist may:
• Prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Aleve, Advil), naproxen, muscle relaxants if you clench or grind teeth, anti-anxiety medications to alleviate stress, or anti-depressants to reduce the pain.
• suggest plastic night guards (only wear them at night) or splints (can be worn 24-hours) fit over the lower and upper teeth so it is harder to lock, grind or clench teeth. They also help position the teeth.
• Do corrective surgery (use braces, bridges or crowns, replace teeth that are missing)
• Trigger-point injections
• Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
• Radio-wave therapy
Physical Therapy for TMD
It is essential to undergo physical therapy after surgery to stretch, relax, tighten muscles and reduce scar tissue.
Physical therapy may include:
• Ice therapy to reduce pain and swelling
• Heat therapy for improving circulation of blood
• Strengthening jaw exercises to making muscles more flexible and increasing the range of motion.
• Massage to release muscle tension
• Training to realign the jaw and posture improvement
• Ultrasound which directs sound waves (high-frequency) to the TMJ for alleviation of pain, swelling and for improved circulation.
• Moving the TMJ improves the range of motion and reduces scar tissue
• In TENS, a minor electrical current is applied on the jaw joint through the skin to get rid of the pain, blood circulation improvement and muscle relaxation. It is believed that the current hinders the pain signals of the body, but it does not work for everyone.
It is important to remember to rest the jaw after each session, avoid the chewing of food that cause discomfort and pain and control any practices that may affect the jaw.