Do you suffer from severe pain in your jaw, undiagnosed headache when you wake up in the morning or ear pain? It could be due to a condition called jaw pain or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disease.
There are a plethora of reasons that cause jaw pain. Aesthetic dentist Dr. Karishma Jaradi says, “Damage to the TMJ can lead to symptoms like muscle spasms, headache, neck aches, jaw or teeth pain, trouble during chewing or opening the mouth. Jaw pain is also common among people who eat hard, chewy food, and those who have a history of clenching teeth or who suffer whiplash kind of injuries at an early age. It could also be caused by gum disease, cavities or oral cancer.”
Another common cause is an imbalance in one’s oral architecture – teeth not being rightly placed or positioned or not being conducive in the oral environment (the way they are naturally supposed to be). Dr. Elakshi Morey Gupta, conservative dentist and endodontist, adds, “The moment a tooth moves from its natural position or there is any imbalance, it leads to jaw pain. Depending upon how severe the shift is, the pain is accordingly graduated. Imbalance in your oral architecture, faulty procedure in the mouth, arthritis, stress and posture are some of the other reasons for jaw pain. Another cause may be tetanus (also called lockjaw), which is a bacterial infection. To prevent it, make sure you are up-to-date with your tetanus injection shots.” Severe jaw pain that comes suddenly, most commonly in the lower left section, can be a sign of a heart attack.
Influenced by weather conditions
During winter, jaw pain can aggravate and become more painful. If left untreated for long, it can pose as a serious threat.
How it affects other organs
Any imbalance in teeth alignment can affect your entire body. Even the posture of your body can be one of the reasons contributing to jaw pain and vice versa. Jaw pain can lead to spondylosis, which a large number of people are unaware about. Also, cervical collar is more or less related to jaw pain. Body pain, to a certain extent, can be attributed to chronic TMJ. It can also lead to migraines.
Is it age-related?
“It isn’t restricted to any particular age group and can happen any time between the ages of 18 and 50 years or probably even beyond that. There is no age constraint as it depends on the cause. For example, if an adult has TMJ because the jaws are inherently or genetically unaligned and he she has been careless about it, then the result will probably turn out to be even more hazardous and painful.” Arthritis, stress and bruxism (habit of grinding teeth at night) are some of the problems that contribute to it, too. The more it is left untreated, the more severe it gets. Occurrence of jaw pain in older people is not due to age but because it has been left untreated for a prolonged period,” explains dental surgeon Dr. Ather Wani.
It is very important to see a dentist who specialises in TMD or an ENT medical specialist so that the cause can be diagnosed at an early stage to avoid further complications. A dentist might create a mouth guard to protect your teeth when you sleep. You also might want to see a psychotherapist to talk about stress reduction.
You may need to meditate, undergo physiotherapy or take anti-anxiety drugs. If the cause is due to malocclusion, you may need orthodontic treatment. If the pain is due to a TMJ disorder, you can take over-the-counter pain relieving medications. Try gently massaging the sides of your face, cheek and jaw. Put a cold compress on your face. Consider getting your magnesium levels checked.
Keeping jaw pain at bay after treatment
After the jaw pain is treated either by correcting existing teeth, faulty procedures and posture, there is a maintenance protocol that needs to be followed. This comprises avoidance of certain things.
Regular follow-up is one of the key recommendations because the patient will remain oblivious to the problems if he does not undergo tests and check-ups.
Avoiding gum tops the list because the chewing action puts a lot of pressure on your jaws. Drinks do not affect the TMJ in any manner.
One should avoid eating food that is rubbery and chewy, or that requires a lot of pressure from the teeth to break it. Exerting pressure just after undergoing the treatment will not let it heal. – Debarati S Sen, TNN