Jaw pain may not seem like a serious problem, but if you experience it routinely, it could be a warning sign of a larger health problem. Jaw discomfort can be experienced in many ways: Maybe you feel soreness in the muscles of the jaw; maybe you experience pain, clicking, or hindered movement in the joint; you might even feel soreness in the teeth or jaw bone itself. For some people, jaw pain can even limit their ability to eat or speak. Consistent jaw pain is not only difficult to live with, but could even be a symptom of temporomandibular joint disorder, more commonly known as TMJ or sometimes TMD.
If you’re experiencing jaw pain in Burke, VA, a neuromuscular dentist like Dr. Pamela Marzban can provide the diagnosis and treatment you need to make chewing, speaking, and day-to-day life easy and painless again. Call 703-349-4277 or contact us online to make an appointment.
What Causes Jaw Pain?
The jaw is a complex system of bone and tissue. The temporomandibular joints have to enable a much wider variety of movement than most of the other joints in the body — your jaw can move up, down, forward, back, and even side to side. That flexibility also makes the temporomandibular joint vulnerable and puts it at greater risk of damage.
Muscle pain is the most common type of jaw pain. This pain can expand throughout the facial region and is often described as facial pain or mistaken for headaches, including sinus headaches or migraines.
The most common cause of jaw joint pain is inflammation of the ligaments that connect the joint. Often that inflammation is the result of malocclusion, more commonly called a “bad bite.” A poorly aligned bite can create tension all throughout the jaw and joints. This tension can result in teeth clenching or grinding, which inflames the ligaments and can also create soreness in the muscles and bones.
Those same ligaments can also become torn under stress, which hinders the smooth movement of the joint. A torn ligament or displaced disc of cartilage may result in popping or clicking sounds when the jaw moves. If left untreated, this problem will worsen and may eventually require joint replacement surgery to correct.
How Is Jaw Pain Treated?
The key to treating jaw pain is to bring the jaw back into proper alignment, eliminating damaging tension. If it’s caught early, jaw pain can be treated without surgical intervention.
Step one to jaw pain treatment is learning the ideal position of least tension for your jaw. This can be done by using a TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) Unit to relax the muscles of the jaw so our measurements aren’t hampered by acquired habits of jaw motion. We then use instruments like the K-7 and T-Scan to gather objective, verifiable data about the optimal position of your jaw. Once that ideal position is mapped, there are noninvasive treatments that can retrain your jaw to rest in that healthy position.
For those with small amounts of tension in their jaw, electrical stimulation or muscle relaxants may be enough to move the jaw into the proper position. Your dentist may recommend jaw stretches and exercises to relax and strengthen the jaw muscles. For those with more tension, a mouthguard can do the work of realigning a bad bite while you’re asleep. For some, the best option may be to use Invisalign or dental crowns to permanently correct the way the teeth come together.
If your jaw problems have gone on long enough that these methods are not capable of correcting the issue, there are still treatments that can fix the damage and reduce or stop the pain. There are a number of surgical treatments that can be used to help even an extremely damaged temporomandibular joint. Because of possible complications, we consider surgery the treatment of last resort for TMJ.
Is It TMJ?
TMJ is one of the most common causes of jaw pain. If you experience other TMJ symptoms alongside jaw pain, such as popping or clicking sounds from the jaw joints, chronic headaches, ringing in the ears, or difficulty opening and closing the mouth, you should speak to your dentist about TMJ treatment.
Dr. Pamela Marzban can determine the best, least invasive treatment for your jaw pain. If you suffer from jaw pain in Burke, Fairfax, or Fairfax Station, Virginia, you need an experienced neuromuscular dentist. Call 703-349-4277 or contact us online to make an appointment today.