general dentistry

Jaw Pain

Problems with the jaw joint are often called jaw joint dysfunction or temporomandibular disorder (TMD). They can cause pain and affect how well your jaw joint works.

The jaw joint is one of the most complicated joints in your body and has several muscles and ligaments allowing different movements. Because it’s so complicated, there are several different problems you may have with your jaw joint.

Your symptoms may include:

  • Pain around your jaw, cheek, ear, neck, shoulders or back.
  • Restricted movement, making it difficult to chew – you might feel as ifyou have a locked jaw, or you may not be able to close your mouth.
  • Popping, grating or clicking sounds, when you move your jaw.
  • Headaches

Not everyone has pain when they have jaw joint problems. Some people just have clicking and difficulty opening their mouth. If you do have pain, you may find that it gets worse as the day goes on, or when you chew, or if you’re feeling stressed. You may find these symptoms get better on their own within a few months however if they persist it is best you consult with your dentist.

Jaw Pain Assessment

One of our dentists will enquire about your symptoms including:

  • Examining your head, neck, face and jaw to see if you have any tenderness.
  • Movingyour jaw in all directions, to see how much movement you have.
  • Looking inside your mouth to check teeth or gums.
  • Whether anything triggers your jaw problems, such as chewing or yawning.
  • Whether you grind your teeth or bite your nails, as both of these can cause jaw problems.

Jaw Pain thumb

Frequently Asked Questions

How is temporomandibular disorder (TMD) diagnosed?

Diagnosis is usually made after examining you and asking about your symptoms. Tests don’t usually help, but they can be useful in some cases; for example, to see if part of your jaw joint is out of place or whether arthritis is causing your problems. Your dentist might refer you to see a specialist doctor, such as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.You may have one or more of the following tests, either an x-ray, CT scan,an MRI scan or an ultrasound scan.

What causes TMD?

Because the jaw joint is so complicated, there are lots of possible causes of jaw problems, with many people having more than one cause at the same time. They may be triggered if you injure your jaw during more complex dental treatment (such as having your wisdom teeth removed), if you knock your chin or overstretch when yawning. Clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth (bruxism) may cause jaw joint problems.

But lots of people with jaw joint problems don’t grind their teeth, and many people who do grind their teeth don’t have jaw joint problems. Another cause is disc displacement which means that the articular disc is in the wrong position. This is a thin disc inside your jaw joint. This can happen if you dislocate or injure your jaw. You might hear noises when you move your jaw, such as clicking, grating or popping. Osteoarthritis is more common in your knees, hips and hands but it can affect your jaw joint too and wear it down.

What can I do at home to help with my jaw discomfort?

Jaw joint problems will often get better within three to six months and don’t usually cause any complications. Resting your jaw joint may help to relieve your symptoms.

Here are some tips:

  • Eat soft foods so you don’t have to chew food for too long.
  • Don’t yawn widely, chew gum, chew pens or pencils, or bite your nails.
  • Try to stop any habits such as clenching your jaw or grinding teeth.
  • Try to reduce stress if you can, as this can make jaw clenching or teeth grinding worse. You might find relaxation techniques
  • Massage the muscles around your jaw.
  • Put a heat pad or a hot water bottle (filled with warm, not boiling, water) wrapped in a cloth or towel on your jaw.
  • You may find that over the counter painkillers such as paracetamolor ibuprofen, help to ease your pain.
What treatment can my dentist provide to help?

If your dentist thinks you’re clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth when you’re asleep, they may suggest you wear a bite guard (bite splint). This is a plastic cover that fits over your upper or lower teeth and stops them coming into contact with each other. There’s some evidence that physiotherapy may help to improve symptoms for some people. Some research has suggested that exercises and massage may help to treat jaw joint problems. Self-help measures, medicines and non-surgical treatments will probably ease your discomfort and relieve your symptoms. Most jaw joint problems don’t last long and won’t get worse.

If your condition doesn’t start to improve within three months, your dentist may refer you to see a specialist. This could be an oral and maxillofacial surgeon or an ear, nose and throat specialist. Your specialist may suggest surgery if you have severe pain and your jaw joint is causing you significant problems. Only a small number of people have surgery. Usually, you’ll only be offered this if you’ve tried other treatments and they haven’t worked.

For more information contact us on 01744 820404

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