Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Recurrent Jaw Pain

Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Recurrent Jaw Pain

You probably don’t give a thought to how you can yawn, chew, and move your mouth up and down while talking. If you did, you’d know that the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is what allows you to do all these things, because this hinged joint connects your mandible (jaw) to your skull. Since the TMJ gets quite a workout each day, it can become injured or damaged, just like any other body part. This may lead to a variety of symptoms that are collectively called temporomandibular dysfunction or temporomandibular joint disease (TMD). 

At Kiran Rapal, DDS, Inc., Dr. Kiran Rapal and her team serve the dental needs of the San Francisco Bay area from their office in Saratoga, California. That includes offering effective treatments for TMJ dysfunction, no matter what form it takes. Here’s why you shouldn’t ignore your recurrent jaw pain.

What are the causes and symptoms of recurrent jaw pain?

Sometimes the cause of TMD is obvious — a direct injury to the jaw from a blow or a fall. A lot of the times though, the exact cause isn’t readily apparent. For many people, their discomfort results from a combination of genetics, rheumatoid or osteoarthritis (inflammation of the joints), and bruxism (jaw clenching and teeth grinding). Other possibilities include poor posture, emotional stress, and the repetitive jaw movement required to chew gum.

The pain can be localized to the joint itself, or it can radiate into the mouth and head, causing facial pain and leading to headaches and migraine attacks.

Symptoms of TMJ dysfunction also include:

Treating TMJ dysfunction

You shouldn’t ignore recurrent jaw pain, even though sometimes TMJ issues resolve on their own, as you’ll only further injure the damaged joint and surrounding soft tissues. If your symptoms persist, Dr. Rapal may recommend one or more of the following options.

Medications

We start with conservative treatments. You can take OTC pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications to relieve the pain and discomfort, and complement this by applying an ice pack to the joint. If these aren’t strong enough, Dr. Rapal may prescribe something else, such as prescription-strength ibuprofen or even a muscle relaxant, to calm spasms that lead to pain.

Non-medication treatments

Perhaps the most common therapy for TMD is an occlusal splint (sometimes called a night guard). This custom-made, plastic device fits over your teeth when you sleep to prevent jaw clenching and teeth grinding, thus relaxing the TMJ.

Physical therapy is another strong possibility. Dr. Rapal can teach you how to do exercises designed to stretch and strengthen your jaw muscles, reducing your pain and other symptoms. 

Lifestyle changes

Understanding what bad habits can contribute to TMJ issues is the first step. Habits such as jaw clenching or teeth grinding in response to stress, nail biting, pencil chewing, and even leaning your chin on your hand can contribute to jaw tightness and pain. Changing your habits can relax the muscles, giving you relief.

Changing your eating habits can help as well. Choose softer foods, cut your food into smaller pieces so you don’t have to open as wide, avoid sticky or chewy items, and absolutely eliminate chewing gum.

If you’re having recurrent jaw pain and need relief, contact Kiran Rapal, DDS, Inc. to set up a consultation. Call the office at 408-864-7010, or book online with us today.

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