Aside from a toothache or a migraine, there might be more annoying, nagging pain than jaw pain. It makes everything hurt: you can’t eat, you can’t chew, you can’t talk--you can’t even sleep. So when you’re afflicted with jaw pain, what recourse do you have? What options are available for you?
The dentist should be your first line of defense when it comes to jaw pain. Odds are good that a lot of the cause of your jaw pain is due to teeth clenching and grinding, and there are things that a dentist can do for you to help mitigate this.
A mouthguard is the first and most common tool in the arsenal of the dentist. This unobtrusive appliance is something that you wear at night that keeps your teeth from touching, so they won’t be able to grind and dig into each other. You can purchase a generic, one-size-fits-all mouthguard from the pharmacy, but the dentist can make one that is customized for your mouth--not just the arrangement of your teeth, but the behavior of the grinding.
Your dentist may also prescribe muscle relaxers to help relieve jaw tension. They don’t always work, but they’re an easy fix that’s worth a shot.
Your dentist may refer you to a specialist who works with botox. No, it’s not to take the wrinkles out of your gums--the botulinum toxin in Botox may keep your jaw muscles from clenching. A single injection can last for months, but you will require more later.
Finally, in rare cases, you may need jaw surgery. Your dentist will be able to guide you through this process and point you to recommended doctors. This is usually only for people whose pain is severe and whose jaw problems are structural.
Typically, if you follow the recommendations of your dentist in wearing mouth guards and work on stress coping skills (to decrease your teeth gritting and clenching) TMJ pain will go away on its own. This is why it’s important to get a second opinion whenever a doctor suggests something dramatic like surgery, which can be unalterable.
One sided jaw pain can be a different animal altogether. Although there’s no cause for alarm yet, sometimes jaw pain on one side can be a sign of serious problems--in rare cases it can be a sign of a heart attack. More likely, however, it’s a sign of cavities or an abscessed tooth.
The most common causes are:
Rare causes include:
TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre of Raleigh-Durham