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Have you ever missed out on your favorite meal because it was too painful to chew? Or, not be able to get a good night’s sleep because your jaw was aching? You’re not alone. Millions of people experience jaw pain from a variety of sources. The good news is that jaw pain is generally highly treatable, depending on the source of the problem.
From issues in your sinuses, clenching or grinding of the teeth while you sleep or muscular issues within your jaw, there are a variety of reasons why you may be having jaw pain. Although the pain itself may not interfere with your regular life, it’s still important to have it investigated right away before more serious issues can develop.
You may be confused about which doctors treat TMJ pain or if you may need to see your dentist instead. The rule should be to always talk to your primary care doctor first if you are experiencing chronic jaw pain. From there you can seek out treatment from a recommended specialist. Let’s take a look at a few of the more common causes of jaw pain.
Gingivitis and Periodontitis are two examples of gum disease. If your gums are not properly taken care of with a regulated oral hygiene routine, your gums can become infected. A build-up of food particles and bacteria can seep under the gums and cause irritation and even bleeding. In severe cases, this type of infection can cause jaw pain.
TMJ – Temporomandibular Joint and Muscle Disorder
TMJ affects over 10 million American’s every year, making it the most common source of jaw pain. The Temporomandibular joint is the main hinge of your jaw and is a complex system of muscles and tendons. If you have TMJ you may experience muscle spasms, neck aches, trouble opening and closing the mouth, clicking or popping noises or trouble chewing.
Teeth grinding can happen during the day or at night when you are sleeping. Both are caused by stress and anxiety. The clenching of the jaw can put extreme pressure on the mandible joints, causing them to spasm or become inflamed.
You may have no memory of grinding or clenching your teeth at night but wake up with a sore jaw. Teeth grinders often wear a mouthguard at night to protect their teeth from erosion, friction and braking.
Malocclusion simply means that you have an improper bite where your jaw is not properly aligned for optimal chewing. This can cause difficulty with eating and talking and result in a dull but persistent pain in the jaw joint.
The most common cause can be traced back to childhood with anyone who sucked their thumb for an extended period. But, it can also be the result of incoming wisdom teeth, or teeth drift. It’s a good idea to see your dentist to determine if you need to have braces to eliminate the drift or a possible wisdom tooth extraction.
Tetanus is a bacterial infection that is commonly known to cause “lockjaw.” The infection tightens up the muscles and tendons surrounding the mandible joint, making it difficult to open and close your mouth. If you are up to date on your tetanus shots you should be at low risk.
Jaw pain can interfere with many normal things in life including talking, chewing and swallowing. If you are experiencing persistent jaw pain, it’s never a good idea to put off seeing your doctor to examine the source and work toward the right treatment to give you some relief.