How to Treat Chronic Jaw Pain - Holladay Family Dental
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How to Treat Chronic Jaw Pain

How to Treat Chronic Jaw Pain


Chronic jaw pain can be frustrating because it affects your life—how you sleep, how you talk, and how you eat. All of us have aches and pains from time to time. Many of these pains resolve themselves but others linger. Sometimes pain can slowly increase overtime. Many of us can deal with some pain, but when pain becomes so intense you find yourself thinking about it all the time, it may be time to do something about it. But, you may say, what can be done about jaw pain?

How do I know if I should see a doctor?

Let pain be your guide. If you are in severe pain that is only getting worse, see a doctor. If this pain is interfering with your life, see a doctor or a dentist. The jaw is tricky. Because it is near the teeth, neck, and head, sometimes determining the cause can be difficult. Also, a number of diseases and problems can be linked to jaw pain. . You may need some imaging done, like X-rays, to get a diagnosis. For these services, contact a dentist near you to see if he is the right person to help you with your specific pain.

Most Common Cause of Jaw Pain

TMD/TMJ—Temporomandibular joint disorder—a condition that affect your temporomandibular joint, which includes the muscles, nerves, and cartilage that controls how you open and close your mouth. This is the #1 cause of jaw pain. TMD can be caused by:

  • Overuse—think gum chewing!
  • Clenching jaw from stress
  • Grinding teeth in sleep
  • Misaligned bite
  • A blow or injury

Other Causes of Jaw Pain

  • Sinus infections
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Lyme disease
  • Mental Health Conditions
  • MS
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Lupus
  • Infection

More about TMD—the most common cause of jaw pain

Since TMD is the most common cause of pain, let’s discuss it further. TMD is more common in women than men. It is most common in women of child-bearing years. It can be serious, requiring surgery but in many cases, pain caused by TMD will actually go away on its own. This is good news.

What types of pain can be linked to TMD?

    • Ear pain

      Ear pain

    • Headache
    • Neck ache
    • Vertigo
    • Fever, swelling of jaw
    • Tenderness
    • Pain in the late morning or late afternoon
    • Pain chewing or biting
    • A clicking or popping noise accompanied by pain when opening mouth
    • Sensitive teeth without another cause

What are common treatments for TMD and other jaw pain?

      • Wear a mouth guard. If your jaw pain is related to stress and clenching your jaw in your sleep, your doctor or dentist may recommend a mouth guard. Wearing a mouth guard can also protect your teeth from grinding them in your sleep.
      • Eat soft foods. If you jaw is swollen or inflamed, it may be best to back off on eating foods that irritate the problem. You may feel some relief by changing your diet for a week or two.
      • Massage the joint. If you have gotten in the habit of holding tension in your jaw, making a conscious effort to stretch and gently massage your jaw throughout the day may also help.
      • Take ibuprofen to decrease inflammation.
      • Use warm or cold compresses on your jaw to ease pain.
      • Check with your dentist about the list of dental services they provide and see if they can help you with the current pain.

Avoid triggers. Sometimes pain can ease off and be OK but then gets triggered. If you can figure out your triggers, you can avoid them. Common triggers can include the following:

      • Avoid crunchy foods, hard objects.
      • Avoid taking large bites.
      • Avoid caffeine.
      • Avoid carrying bags on the same shoulder.

With a little more awareness of your body’s reaction to stress, chewing habits, and triggers, hopefully you can decrease your pain now and in the future.