Various medical problems can lead to jaw pain. This pain is typically categorized as primary pain, meaning that the pain is due to problems with the jaw itself. In some cases, jaw pain could be classified as secondary pain, meaning that the pain is caused by other parts of one’s body. Whichever is the case, both of them can be treated, but it is imperative that treatment is received as early as possible. The most common causes of jaw pain are temporomandibular joint disorders (TMDs), trauma, and sinus infections. Certain individuals might also feel pain in their jaw when they suffer a migraine or heart attack.
One of the most common causes of primary jaw pain is trauma to the jaw. This usually occurs due to bruxism, which is when one constantly and unconsciously grinds or clench their teeth. Gum infection, tumor, or an abscess are also other possible causes, as well as dental issues. Here’s an example: should an individual’s teeth fail to align properly, or they are spaced irregularly (known as a malocclusion), she or he might find it difficult to chew or bite properly, and this can result in intense pain and facial abnormalities.
Malocclusion and bruxism can lead to the condition known as TMD, which is a long-term, chronic inflammation of the jaw area. This condition leads to intense, severe pain as well as constant headaches. Anxiety and stress can also be a factor in developing this condition, as bruxism tends to occur in individuals who are highly stressed. Another severe cause of pain in one’s jaw is tetanus, since it can cause the jaw muscles to constantly contract. It’s no wonder that this specific condition is referred to as lockjaw.
Another cause of primary pain may be due to bone spurs as well as wisdom teeth. Behaviors which place an unusually high amount of pressure on the jaw – chewing gum, nail biting, thumb-sucking, sleeping on the side or back, or clutching a phone between one’s jaw and shoulders – may eventually lead to pain after a period of time. Degenerative joint diseases like arthritis may also bother the jaw since bone degeneration can occur there also. Furthermore, many individuals experience pain shortly after oral surgery or having a tooth pulled.
A very severe cause of jaw pain is due to a heart attack. This can result in pain that originates from the jaw, but spreads down all the way to one’s shoulder and arm. A facial nerve disorder, trigeminal neuralgia, might also be the cause of debilitating pain. A type of migraine, carotidynia, may result if a person tends to grind his or her teeth while trying to cope with the pain.
Certain individuals experience some pressure or even pain in their jaw if they are also suffering from a sinus or ear infection due to the elevated pressure in the sinus and ear cavities. Similarly, enlarged glands in one’s neck might also cause the same kind of pain. Scurvy, which occurs when one lacks vitamin C in their diet, and phossy jaw, which occurs when one is exposed to white phosphorus, might also cause damage to the jaw, though this is unlikely to be the case in developed countries.
The specific cause of the jaw pain will influence the steps one needs to take to prevent it from happening again. Unfortunately there is no guaranteed way to completely prevent certain conditions like trigeminal neuralgia or arthritis, many causes can be avoided. For example, many can highly reduce their chances of experiencing TMD by being cognizant of how tense their jaw is normally. By lowering the amount of stress in their lives, as well as consciously relaxing tense jaw muscles, TMD will unlikely to occur. For those who already suffer from TMD, if their condition also happens to be worsened due to malocclusion, seeing a specialist about realigning their jaw or teeth might help. This is especially beneficial for children who have not yet experienced much pain yet.
Several common sense precautions can be undertaken to avoid many jaw problems. For example, good dental hygiene can stave off gum infections and various other dental issues that may lead to pain. When sleeping, lying on the back with a sturdy pillow or wearing a headset when talking instead of trying to pinch the phone between the shoulders and ear can be beneficial in reducing pressure on the jaw.
Treating jaw Pain
Typically, jaw pain treatment begins with some over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. To treat pain caused by TMD or bruxism, dentists may instruct their patients to use splints in order to block them from clenching their teeth during sleep. Stress-reducing exercises may also be introduced. Intra-aural devices can also be effective in treating TMD. These are tiny plastic inserts that are placed into one’s ear, and they will lower the pressure on the temporomandibular joint. Patients suffering from severe, chronic cases, dentists might begin a treatment known as arthrocentesis. This involves directly injecting an anti-inflammatory solution into the jaw joint, or surgery may be required to realign the jaw.
Photo Credit: consultechit1