Jaw pain is often a trivial health problem that is caused by dental troubles. However, in some cases, jaw pain can indicate a serious problem that requires medical treatment.
Let us learn more about the causes of jaw pain in the following paragraphs.
What is a Jaw?
The jaw includes the joints and muscles that help connect the mount with the base of the skull. These joints and muscles help us chew, swallow, talk as well as a yawn. In medical terms, the jaw is called as the temporomandibular joint. This joint helps the upper jaw close over the lower jaw. As there are many muscles, tendons and bones involved in this most widely used joint in the body, it is most likely to suffer from pain.
Symptoms of Jaw Pain
In most cases, jaw pain in itself a symptom. However, other symptoms that may accompany jaw pain include:
- Sore jaw muscles
- Tender muscles of the jaw
- Pain when opening and closing mouth
- Unexplained headaches
- Pain in neck, especially in case of TMD
- Clicking noise when one chews or yawns
- Jaw muscle spasms
- Lock joint syndrome
What Causes Jaw Pain?
The causes of jaw pain are not very clear. This is because different muscles and bones can be affected leading to pain in the jaw. Some of the causes include:
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)
Overuse of the temporomandibular joint can lead to inflammation and pain. Talking a lot, chewing gum continuously, etc. can lead to jaw pain.
People who grind, clench, grate or tap their teeth when they sleep often suffer from jaw pain. This also leads to frequent headaches, neck pain, tooth aches, etc. Bruxism is often a sign of stress and can be relieved with the help of muscle relaxant pills.
Intense pain one side of the face that is said to be one of the most painful conditions is trigeminal neuralgia. In this condition, the ophthalmic nerve, maxillary nerve and the mandibular nerve are affected. If you suffer from episodes of intense, stabbing, unexplainable pain for a few seconds, minutes or hours, then it may be trigeminal neuralgia. The treatment in this case is the use of medical drugs like anticonvulsant carbamazepine, antidepressant like amitriptyline, duloxetine in case of neurotic pain and opiates like morphine or oxycodone to manage pain. When medical therapy is not enough, the patient is advised surgery.
Many people suffer from jaw arthritis. This is another painful condition that occurs after years of wear and tear of the jaw joint. This causes problems with eating food, swallowing, etc. Muscle relaxants, pain relievers, etc. help in alleviating the painful symptoms.
Sinus is another condition that can lead to jaw pain. When the maxillary sinuses are infected, it can lead to jaw pain on the right side. One may also complain of heaviness of the face, congestion, etc. Decongestants, over the counter cold drugs, saline sprays may help in clearing the sinuses and reducing the jaw pain.
Teeth are a part of the jaw. Thus, any problem affecting the teeth can lead to pain in the jaw. Severe cavity, tooth infection, tooth fracture, periodontal disease, etc. can lead to pain in the jaw. You may need to consult a dentist for further treatment. He may recommend anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, root canal, tooth extraction or periodontal treatment that will help in curing jaw pain.
One of the most severe facial injuries is jaw fracture. It will lead to severe pain, inability to move the jaw leading to problems chewing, talking, etc. The doctors will consider treatment based on the type of jaw fracture and involvement of the airway.
Diagnosis of jaw pain
The doctor will conduct a physical examination. He will try to observe the range of motion of the jaw. The doctor will also feel the jaw and listen to sounds by opening and closing the mouth. He may press on different areas of the teeth to see if one suffers from pain or discomfort in other areas of the face.
In case of any doubt, he may ask for an X-ray. If the X-ray is inconclusive or requires further clarification, a CT scan may be carried out for detailed images of the jaw bones.
Treatment of jaw pain
Treatment for jaw pain involves the application of hot or cold packs. One should eat soft foods such as yogurt, boiled and mashed vegetables, fruits, soup, etc. Avoid hard and chewy foods. One can wear night splints to avoid grinding teeth at night.
The doctor may advice muscle relaxants, sedatives, tricyclic antidepressants, pain relievers to alleviate the jaw pain. If the medical treatment does not show any improvement, the doctor may suggest Botox injections into the jaw. When also does not help relieve the pain, surgical treatments may be the only option left.
Jaw pain is mostly due to dental problems. Once the dental problem is treated, jaw pain subsides on its own. Use of mouth guards and splints helps prevent the grinding of teeth at night. If you suffer from constant jaw pain on left or right side, speak to your doctor immediately. It may be a sign of something serious that requires medical treatment.
Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: December 29, 2014