You may only realize how often you use your jaw once it begins to bother you. For example, when you eat or speak, your jaw is working. But, even when you are at rest, you can still experience jaw pain. Sometimes, jaw pain is simple—overuse. Unfortunately, jaw pain can be a symptom of certain disorders that need treatment. Depending on the cause, there are several ways that your dentist can help reduce or even eliminate your jaw pain.
Causes of Jaw Pain
There are several things that can cause jaw pain from stress to teeth grinding.
Bruxism or teeth grinding is a common cause of jaw pain. When you clench or grind your teeth, it puts excess stress on your jaw joint and muscles. Like any muscle group, overwork can cause soreness and pain. Plus, grinding your teeth can damage your enamel, which protects the nerves within your teeth. This can increase your sensitivity to temperatures, causing pain or discomfort in your jaw or face.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) is a condition in which the jaw joint is impaired. The jaw joint is responsible for hinging the mouth open and closed. When the joint experiences damage or deformity, it cannot move efficiently without causing pain or discomfort. Popping and clicking of the joint are common symptoms of TMJ. As TMJ worsens, you can feel pain in your jaw and face.
If you have mild jaw pain, resting your jaw can help minimize your pain. Sometimes, overworking your jaw can create pain or discomfort. Eating and speaking are natural and necessary functions. However, they use muscles in order to work. It is like going to the gym and overworking any other muscle group. Rest can be the best thing for your jaw. You may want to avoid eating foods that require intense chewing, such as gum or toffee.
In addition, you can choose to ice your jaw and face to minimize your pain. Swelling and irritation can cause pain. Therefore, ice can reduce some discomfort. You can also use over-the-counter pain medication like Tylenol or Advil.
One service that your dentist can provide is a custom mouthguard. Once they take a mold of your teeth, your dentist can make a mouthguard that perfectly fits your mouth. If you grind your teeth at night, a mouthguard will cushion your teeth to minimize any damage. Additionally, a mouthguard will help ensure that your jaw doesn’t overwork during the night. If you can’t grind your teeth, your jaw won’t experience as much pressure.
If a simple method cannot solve your jaw pain, you may consider physical therapy. Physical therapy helps with jaw placement and movement. With physical therapy, you will train your jaw to move correctly. It is possible that a muscle imbalance is causing your pain. So, a physical therapist or other qualified professional will walk you through different exercises to strengthen your jaw muscles.