Many of us have problems with our jaw. We get jaw aches and pains that make it difficult for us to eat, chew, swallow, and speak.  It can even lead to migraine headaches.  Some of us learned to live with it because it is not “that bad”.  But others seek treatment. 

What causes jaw pain?

Problems with the jaw and the muscles surrounding the jaw are cumulatively called Temporomandibular Joint Disorder or TMD. Many people wrongly call it TMJ which simply describes the area; the temporomandibular joint. Common symptoms include frequent headaches, migaine headaches, one or two sided jaw pain when chewing, jaw pain in the morning, neck pain, difficulty swallowing, difficulty opening your mouth, jaw pain when yawning, and toothache … just to name a few. 

The reason for TMD pain can be varied and can sometimes be difficult to find its specific cause. Some common reasons for TMD pain include injury from accidents, sports injuries, arthritis, bone disorders, dental malocclusions, and skeletal/developmental defects.  But the most common cause for TMD pain is stress.  Those of us with TMD pain hold our stresses in the muscles of our head, neck, and shoulders. This causes our muscles to contract which leads to us clenching and grinding our teeth.

Common Treatment

Fortunately, most TMD pain can be minimized if not eliminated by use of an oral splint … commonly known as a night guard. This is a prosthetic appliance you wear that prevents you from clenching your teeth.  The design for your splint can vary. Your dental profession will know what type of design will work best for you. But basically, splints prevent you from clenching your teeth. This allows the muscles of your head, neck, and shoulders, to relax eventually eliminating any jaw pain you may have. In this office, we have been able to eliminate migraine headaches on some patients when it was discovered that the source of their migraine was from TMD disorder.

Other treatment options

If your TMD pain is not caused by muscular stress, splint therapy may not be enough.   In this case, your dental professional may refer you to a surgeon.  A surgeon can remove or reattach any tissue that may be damaged from injury or arthritis.  In cases where a skeletal defect led to a misaligned jaw, the surgeon can realign your upper and lower jaw eliminating any symptoms from TMD disorder. If splint therapy is not working for you, please discuss this with your dental professional for guidance.

If you liked this article, and wish to further your understanding of your own dental health, check out another of our articles  

What is Periodontal Disease and Why Does It Matter

Dr. Ricafort was voted as one of the best dentists in the Nashville area by the Nashville Scene readers.  He also won Favorite Dentist in Murfreesboro (Rutherford County) in the most recent Ruthie’s Awards. Dr Ricafort and his team are glad to welcome new patients and families into his Murfreesboro practice. We hope to see you soon.