Help Me! My Jaw Hurts!

You can hear people complaining of pains in the jaw more and more frequently. Usually, it is not the jaw itself that hurts, but the joint connecting our jaws. This is of little consequence when your jaw hurts, of course, and the question still remains; what can be done? Should we stop talking altogether? What about eating? How about smiling?

Before commiting yourself to a life of science and frowns, let’s try and find out what hurts, why it hurts, and hwat we can do to remedy the situation.

Temporo- what now joint?

The jaw joint, or temporomandibular joint as it is known in scientific circles is the part of our body that connects your mandible to your skull via the bones right by your ear. This is very complex and mulrifacated little thing, and we use it nearly every minute of every day; whenw e chew, swallow, talk, etc. You can feel where the joint is too; put your palm in fornt of your ears, then open and close your jaws. That funny moving thing is the TMJ, short hand for temporomandibular joint. You can also put your pinky in your ear, push it gently forward, then open and lcose your mouth.

Diseases Of This Joint

In 1934, Dr J.B.Costen defined TMJ disorder as a condition in which the joint is under larger pressure than usual, which is caused by the improper position of the muscles, teeth or jaw. This is why proper alignemnt of teeth is so vital to the health of the jaw, as improper alignement will cause unhealthy chewing habits to form, which in turn will lead to taxation of the jaw, which will cause it to wear out and become painful. Costen also realized that correcting incorrect bites and decreasing pressure using orthodontics will cause pains in the head, ear and neck will also decrease, and he divulged this information to his fellow colleagues as well. This problem is persistent, and around 75 million Americans suffer from TMJ pains, and treatment is complicated further by the fact that a good chunk of these cases are undiagnosed.

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Back To The Roots

Why the TMJ hurts can be resolved to two large categories:

1) Organic disease of the TMJ and

2) The joint has functional issues

The first category includes birth defects, and developmental problems. In these cases the mandible and maxilla are programmed to align improperly. Trauma can occur as well, and this can dislocate the jaw. It is of vital importance to pop it back in its place as soon as possible, otherwise surgery will be needed to rectify the situation. If the problem is more serious, and a fracture occurs, the area will need to be wired shut. The cause of pain can also be an infected tooth (which should be removed, if necessary) bad orthodontics, low quality dental care or a missing tooth (which should be replaced, if posisble). These situations are rarer, but they can all cause improper chewing habits, which can cause the pain, to alleviate it you must restore normal chewing habits.

Research has not given us the exact mehcanism of jaw pain yet, if an organic disease can be ruled out. In these fcases the entire jaw joint becomes sore and sensitive to touch, we can fele pain when we move our jaws, and this is why sometimes we will just not open it at all, and that’s when lockjaw can develop. The jaw can make a clicking sound when moved, and the pain felt in the jaw can radiate to the ear and even to the temples, sometimes causing the whole sid eof the face to become swollen and painful.

Usually TMJ pain will only affect one joint at a time, and this can serve as a clue  to what is wrong. The problem is especially common in 20-40 year olds, and is three tims likely to occur in women than in men. The causes can be psychological as well, and the clenching of teeth is the cause of the problem.

How To Stop The Pain

The solution to TMJ pain can be quite diverse, and is dependent on what is causing the pain. Here are a few options:

Relieve Stress

If the cause is stres srelated, it is worth looking into relaxation techniques and ways to loosen up. If you are not afraid of a little exercise, yoga can also help wiht your TMJ problems. Seek inner harmony and your jaw pain will decrease, too.

 

Occlusal Splints

There are special orthodontic splints, with which you can set the height of the bite. These should be worn every day. The splints need to be made especially for the patient, and the height needs to be set regularly in accordance with the treatment. If we are in the habit of grinding our teeth at night, it is necessary to wear the splints in your sleep as well.

Medication

Many anti-inflammatory medications are available over the counter, but if you want to be cautious, ask the second opinion of a dentist. The dentist may also perscribe some more serious medication as well. The clenching of teeth can be remedied by taking antidepressants, muscle relaxants and things of that ilk.

Physiotherapy

Try and do exercises that promote proper stature. Be aware of how your spine is shaped and massage the aching muscles frequently.

Laser Therapy

There are laser based therapies that alleviate pain and relieve inflammation as well. Ask about these from your dentist.    

Eat Healthy

If our jaw is in need of rehabilitation, eating soft, creamy foods is recommended, and foods that do not require a lot of chewing are also on the menu. Yoghurt, steamed vegetables, soft fruits, cream cheese, egg based foods and soups are all good ideas.

If our pain is caused by improper chewing do to an infecte dor otherwise painful tooth, you should go and see a dentist immediately.

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