Occasional jaw pain usually isn’t reason for alarm. When it begins hurting every morning, however, a painful jaw can affect your ability to eat, speak, chew and live comfortably.
If you have chronic jaw pain, talk to your dentist. You may have TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder. TMJ disorder occurs when too much physical strain is placed on and near the jaw joint and muscles. This results in limited mobility of the joint and reoccurring pain. Your dentist can determine the cause of TMJ pain and provide a long-term solution to help ease symptoms.
Signs of TMJ Problems
People with TMJ issues might experience a variety of symptoms ranging from mild to debilitating. The pain can be temporary or last for years. The following symptoms may signal an issue with your temporomandibular joint:
- Frequent headaches, especially in the morning
- Difficulty or pain when chewing or eating
- Achy or painful jaw joints
- Jaws that get "locked" in an open or closed position
- Popping or clicking sounds in the TMJ when chewing or speaking
- Cracked, worn or fractured teeth as a result of chronic clenching
- Pain that radiates to other parts of the face, head, ears, neck or shoulders
Common Causes of TMJ Disorders
By determining the source of pain, your dentist can recommend the best course of treatment. Common reasons for TMJ symptoms may include one or a combination of the following:
- Injury or dislocation of the jaw
- Poor oral habits, such as clenching or grinding teeth
- Stress that leads to grinding and repetitive tightening of the muscles surrounding the jaw
- Presence of arthritis in the jaw joint
- Poor tooth or jaw alignment
TMJ Treatment — Your Dentist Can Help
Fortunately, you don’t have to live with chronic jaw pain. Following a thorough examination, your dentist can confirm if TMJ is present and prescribe the best treatment to relieve the pain and restore jaw function.
For many people, TMJ discomfort can be relieved at home with self-care. Finding ways to reduce stress through exercise, medication or therapy could be effective strategies for lessening jaw tension and easing TMJ symptoms.
Depending on the cause of your TMJ symptoms, your dentist may also recommend correcting a misaligned bite through orthodontic treatment. Braces and other appliances can help realign the teeth and jaw so that your mouth can close in the proper position. If grinding or clenching is causing your TMJ pain, a custom dental appliance, called a splint or bite guard, can help keep your upper teeth from grinding against your lower teeth. By separating the teeth, the splint creates an even biting surface and reduces strain on the jaw joint, which alleviates pain over time.
BOTOX® for TMJ Relief
Some patients with chronic jaw pain may benefit from BOTOX® — an FDA-approved injectable commonly used to treat frown lines, forehead lines and crow’s feet. Just as BOTOX® relaxes muscles in the face to prevent aging, the same injectable can help relax the muscles responsible for moving your jaw. Effective BOTOX® treatment can provide noticeable relief from the cycle of discomfort caused by constantly tensed jaw muscles. Talk to your dentist to learn more about the benefits of BOTOX® for jaw pain.
Without treatment, TMJ symptoms can lead to worsening pain and more complex dental problems. Talk to a professional and learn more about your options for treating TMJ-related symptoms, such as migraines and premature tooth wear. Your dentist can help diagnose the source of your nagging TMJ pain and design a custom treatment plan to relieve symptoms once and for all.