Jaw pain can be very debilitating as it affects your ability to talk and to chew properly. There are a number of things that can lead to jaw pain. The jaw joint is referred to as the temporomandibular joint or TMJ. It is composed of the bone below the mouth (the mandible or jawbone) and the bone just above the mouth (the maxilla). The TMJ lets the jaw open and close correctly and is one of the most used joints in the body.
The TMJ is a complex structure made up of muscles, bones, and tendons. If this area of the body is injured, it can result in jaw pain. The pain may be on one or both sides depending on the reason. Trauma to the jaw bone, including fractures and dislocations, can cause jaw pain. The pain might happen when you chew or may happen when you are resting. The pain can also be a result of a trauma that occurred to the head or neck and is impacting the jaw, causing it to not line up properly. What are some other reasons for jaw pain that are unrelated to TMJ?
- Coronary artery disease or heart attack: Pain can radiate into the jaw area. If you have any other symptoms – chest discomfort, shortness of breath, sweating, feeling faint, nausea – call 911 right away.
- Certain types of arthritis: Osteoarthritis can impact the TMJ
- Pregnancy: the joints often relax and soften at this time due to a secretion of certain hormones
- Infection in the bone
- Trigeminal neuralgia: a condition of the nervous system that causes extreme facial pain, sometimes including the jaw area
- Cluster headaches: while these typically cause pain around the eyes, the pain may radiate into the jaw
- Sinus problems: if these air-filled cavities become infected with a germ, the result can be excess mucus that puts pressure on the jaw joint and causes pain
- Tooth pain: severe tooth infections called dental abscesses can cause referred pain that radiates into the jaw
Jaw Pain Caused by TMD
Any kind of problem you have with your jaw and the muscles in your face that control it is referred to as TMD or temporomandibular disorders. It is often wrongly referred to as TMJ, but this is the abbreviation for the joint itself, not the disorder.
No one really understands exactly what causes TMD. It is believed that it has to do with the muscles of your jaw or the parts of the joint itself. Whiplash, sporting accidents, or other trauma to the head and neck often occur before the onset of TMD, making it likely that it is related to a misalignment of the bones of the neck directly affected by the accident. A recent study of 89 people with TMD revealed that most of them began having symptoms after enduring an accident of some sort. Other reasons for TMD can be:
- Grinding or clenching your teeth which stresses the jaw joint
- Arthritis in the joint
- Stress which makes you tighten our facial and jaw muscles or clench your teeth
- Dislocation of the disc or soft cushion between the ball and socket of the joint
Symptoms of TMD
TMD is very painful and can be temporary or last many years. It can affect one or both sides of your face. It is more common in women than in men and often occurs in the ages of 20 to 40 years. The most common symptoms are:
- A tired feeling in your face
- Problems with opening your mouth wide
- Pain or soreness in your jaw joint area, face, shoulders and neck, and around your ear when you chew, yawn, or talk
- Trouble chewing or a sudden uncomfortable bite, almost as if the upper and lower teeth are out of alignment with each other
- Swelling on the side of your face
- Jaws that get stuck or locked in the open or closed position
- Clicking, grating, or popping noise in the jaw joint when you open or close your mouth or chew. This is not always painful.
- Neck aches
- Problems with hearing
- Shoulder pain
- Ringing in the ears
Things to Do at Home for Jaw Pain
Here are a couple of suggestions you can try at home to relieve the pain of TMD.
- Apply moist heat or ice packs: Apply ice wrapped in a towel to the painful area of the face for 10 minutes on and then take it off for 10 minutes before reapplying. Warm water put on a washcloth can provide moist heat to relax the overactive jaw muscles and reduce pain.
- Massage: Use your middle and index finger to press the sore areas of your jaw, particularly the spot right in front of your ear where your jaw joint connects. Rub in a circular motion for 5 to 10 minutes.
How Upper Cervical Chiropractic Helps Jaw Pain
Here at Symmetry Health Chiropractic Center, we focus on making sure the bones of the neck are in proper alignment. As seen from the above information, if the neck bones have been misaligned due to injury to the head or neck, TMD may result. A misalignment in this area of the neck can affect how the muscles and bones move and work together, leading to inflammation and swelling.
We use a gentle method to encourage the bones to move back in place rather than poppi
ng or cracking them. Once corrected, the jaw muscles can begin to relax and the pain of TMD may improve or go away entirely.
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