There are many different types of jaw pain, and the causes can vary widely. Jaw pain is most commonly associated with TMJ disorders, teeth grinding (bruxism), dental problems, or an injury. Treating jaw pain depends on the underlying cause; however, there are some general tips that can help to resolve the discomfort; this includes the following:
- Take over-the-counter pain medication to ease jaw pain.
- Apply a cold compress to the area to help reduce any swelling or inflammation.
- Massage the muscles in your jaw to help relieve tension and pain.
- Stretch the muscles in your jaw to help reduce tightness.
- Avoid chewing gum or eating hard foods to give your jaw a rest.
If the pain is severe or persists despite these efforts, it is important to visit our Bellevue, WA, office to determine the cause and deliver the appropriate form of treatment. To learn more about jaw pain and what may be the cause, we invite you to read below and contact our office with any questions.
What Causes Jaw Pain?
Before we are able to treat your jaw pain, it is important to first determine what is causing the problem. As mentioned above, there are many possible causes of jaw pain, and by understanding the source of your pain, we can develop a more effective treatment plan. Some common causes of jaw pain include:
- TMJ disorders: The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull. This joint allows you to move your jaw up and down and side to side, making it possible to talk, eat, and yawn. When this joint is not working properly, it can cause pain in the jaw as well as other symptoms like clicking or popping noises when you move your jaw, difficulty chewing, and pain in the face or neck.
- Arthritis: Arthritis is a general term that describes inflammation of the joints. This inflammation can cause pain and stiffness in any part of the body, including the jaw. There are two main types of arthritis that can affect the jaw – osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the more common type, and it happens when the cartilage in the joints gradually degenerates. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that triggers the body to attack its own tissues, including the joints.
- Dental problems: Dental problems, like tooth decay or gum disease, can also cause jaw pain. This occurs when the health of the tooth or gum tissue has declined to the point of causing an infection in the jaw.
- Stress: Stress is a common trigger for jaw pain. When people are stressed, they tend to clench their teeth or grind them, which puts additional strain on the muscles and joints in the jaw. This can lead to jaw pain, as well as headaches, neck pain, and tooth damage.
- Injury: Jaw pain can also be caused by injury to the jaw, face, or head. This can include injuries such as broken bones, dislocated joints, or cervical spine damage. If you have recently been in an accident, this may be the cause of your jaw pain.
Jaw Pain Treatment
There are a number of ways that jaw pain can be treated, depending on the underlying cause. To give you an idea, refer to the following recommendations:
- Pain due to TMJ disorders may be treated with physical therapy, lifestyle changes, and dental treatment through custom appliances or Trigger Point Therapy.
- Dental problems such as tooth decay or gum disease can be treated with dental procedures designed to resolve the primary issue.
- Injury to the jawbone may require rest, ice, and pain medications. Some severe injuries may require surgery.
- Emotional stress and teeth grinding (bruxism) can often be reduced with stress-reduction techniques such as meditation or therapy. These situations may also benefit from an oral appliance to reduce jaw tension and prevent tooth damage.
Overall, before determining where to begin with jaw pain treatment, it is important to first consult with our team. This will ensure that the most efficient treatment plan can be put in place. Our office also offers a variety of treatment options for jaw pain, depending, of course, on the determined treatment needs. As a result, you can conveniently obtain diagnosis and treatment in one location. The following are some of the methods we use to treat our patients:
- Oral appliance therapy: Oral appliance therapy works by slightly repositioning the lower jaw and teeth, which relieves pressure on the TMJ and helps to prevent subconscious clenching and grinding. These appliances may be worn at any time a patient notices themselves clenching or grinding their teeth. By limiting the tension between the jaws, the muscles and joints are able to relax.
- Trigger Point Therapy: One of our methods of jaw pain treatment includes Trigger Point Therapy. Trigger Point Therapy works by temporarily paralyzing the muscles in the jaw, which can help to relieve pain caused by clenching or grinding. As these muscles are able to relax, any jaw pain caused by TMJ disorder, bruxism, or arthritis may be alleviated. The treatment is delivered in the form of a series of injections that are delivered every three to six months.
- Jaw exercises: We may also provide you with a number of exercises to do at home to help improve the range of motion in your jaw and to help reduce pain. These can help to stretch and strengthen the muscles in the jaw, as well as the ligaments and tendons around the jaw joint.