I’ve seen some Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) pain or Temporomandibular Dysfunction (TMD) http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/temporomandibular-disorders in my Boise dentist office recently. I thought it would be appropriate to talk a little about what causes jaw pain (and the often-associated headaches) and how you can stop or avoid it.
You Might Not Know It
More people have this dysfunction than realize it. We tend to accept the discomfort and pain we feel; opting to take a pain med and ignore it until it goes away. Especially when it comes to discomfort from a headache or sore jaw. That’s the “grin and bear it” variety.
I wouldn’t recommend doing that!
I compare it to people’s knees. Some people can run their whole lives and never have any problems. But if you are running and your knees hurt, then you should find something else to do. This is pretty obvious advice. And yet, people still choose exercises that can continue to harm their joints.
Of course, that analogy only goes so far because you can’t stop using your mouth. You have to talk. You have to eat. And yet, as I just said, ignoring it isn’t an option either.
So what can you do?
Stop it where it starts
The obvious answer is to stop the jaw pain at the source. If you already have jaw pain, then “not moving your jaw” isn’t a practical answer. Not doing the things that create the jaw pain in the first place – now there’s an answer we can work with.
Here are some common causes of jaw pain:
an injury that dislocated the jaw
arthritis in the jaw
stress and tension
grinding your teeth
The first two (dislocation and arthritis) must be fixed or, at the very least, eased with medical intervention and medication. I won’t go into those because it’s an area of expertise for a different doctor.
The third one (stress) is also best addressed by a different doctor, perhaps a therapist. If you can ease the tension you feel in your body and the stress you feel overall, then that will help to limit or even eliminate the jaw pain or headaches.
The fourth cause (grinding your teeth) is what I really want to talk about, since that is an area where I can make some suggestions.
Guard Your Mouth
But first, let me say that grinding your teeth is especially harmful because many people do it at night and don’t know about it. It’s hard to fight a symptom when you don’t know you are causing it. So it’s important to find out if that’s a problem for you.
Wearing a mouth guard at night might be the right fix for the problem. This can not only stop the grinding, but it will protect your teeth from the adverse effects of wearing down the enamel if your jaw does still does start to grind despite the mouth guard being in place.
Sometimes that is not enough, so you may need to undergo additional therapy for your jaw joint to be restored to its best position and flexibility. The joint is meant to withstand huge amounts of use, so if it begins to hurt, you know there is something else going on.
If you are coming in to see me regularly, then I might be able to spot some wear signs before it becomes too advanced. Although, telling me about your jaw pain or headaches BEFORE I see the signs of wear would be even better.
Don’t waste another day dealing with the pain of teeth grinding, jaw soreness, and headaches. Relief is closer and easier than you may realize – so make an appointment and let’s get you feeling 100% again!