Jaw Pain—Coping with TMJ Dysfunction

Many have heard about jaw pain and TMJ. TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, the one that works your lower jaw and keeps it connected to the skull. It is responsible for chewing, swallowing, and opening one’s mouth to speak. When TMJ dysfunction occurs, pain may be felt in the joint and surrounding tissue. Other symptoms can include headaches, neck pain, swelling, difficulty opening the mouth, and a clicking sound when speaking or chewing. What causes TMJ dysfunction and how is it treated? Read on to learn more about this painful condition.

What Causes Jaw Pain?

There are several underlying conditions that can lead to TMJ dysfunction. Consider the following:

  • Grinding Teeth – Called bruxism, the habit of grinding one’s teeth while awake or asleep can cause jaw pain. The facial muscles and jaw are pulled tight for long periods of time while the teeth are grinding resulting in pain and soreness in the jaw.
  • Trauma – An injury to the jaw can cause the joint to no longer open and close properly. Or a neck injury can cause the muscles of the face to pull the jaw slightly out of position while working to correct the spinal misalignment. Whether the injury is sustained in a car accident, playing contact sports, or in some other fashion, the painful result can be the same.
  • Underlying Joint and Disc Displacement – In a clinical study, more than half of patients with a TMJ disorder presented with an underlying disc displacement.

How Can TMJ Dysfunction Be Treated?

When a patient experiences a TMJ disorder, it can be important to seek the collaborative assistance of a chiropractor and a dentist. Consider the following treatment options:

  • Realignment with a Chiropractic Adjustment – Realigning the spine can play a vital role in treating a TMJ issue. Correcting such a misalignment can relieve the pressure on facial muscles and tissue that can be the potential underlying cause of TMJ pain.
  • Joint Mobilization – This is a more direct adjustment of the temporomandibular joint to achieve proper alignment.
  • TMJ Exercises – Rehabilitation exercises can help a person to properly stretch as well as open and close the mouth. These exercises can help to alleviate pain.
  • Dental Orthotics – These are especially important when TMJ is being caused by bruxism or injury from a contact sport. A dentist can develop a custom mouth guard for a person to sleep with that will prevent grinding of the teeth. Custom guards can also be made to protect the mouth and jaw while playing sports, thus preventing further damage. Finally, orthotics that correct crooked teeth or bite can help relieve TMJ pain.

Dr. Ward would be happy to help you treat your TMJ pain. Contact us for a free consultation, we look forward to seeing you.