Jaw Pain Relief, At Your Dental Office
Do you suffer from jaw pain, including:
- Tender or sore jaw muscles
- Worse pain when you first wake up, chew food or yawn
- Difficulty opening your mouth
- Jaw locking when you try to open or close your mouth
- Frequent headaches
- Possible strain or tension in neck
- Clicking or popping noises in jaw when you chew or yawn
All of the above are potential symptoms of a jaw problem.
The jaw joints and groups of muscles that enable chewing, swallowing and speaking are called temporomandibular. If you have an irregularity, alignment problem or muscle tension problem in the area, this can be called a temporomandibular disorder or TMD. Some people call it TMJ, which stand for temporomandibular joint. No matter what you call it, it can be painful. It can also be easy to treat, or difficult to treat, but you owe it to yourself to ask your dentist about your TMD and your options.
Jaw pain can be caused by:
- Incorrect formation during childhood/growth spurt
- Clenching or grinding your teeth – most people who do this are unaware they do it, and often do it while asleep
- Injury; a jaw knocked out of place (dislocated jaw), whiplash, or a broken or fractured jaw
- Worn teeth, missing teeth, or teeth that have drifted
- Dentures that don’t fit right
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Jaw Pain Relief Tips. First, Relax…
Clenching or grinding teeth is often a stress response, and one of the leading causes of jaw pain. So take some steps to actively relax! The following tips will help with daytime tooth clenching.
AT WORK: Take short breaks from stressful work to stretch your neck, rest your eyes, and collect your thoughts. Even breaks of just 1-2 minutes have been shown to significantly reduce work related stress.
During your break, you can also give yourself a little jaw massage. Just like other tight muscles, jaw muscles respond well to massage. Use gentle pressure and run 2 fingers over your jaw joint, back and forth to relieve tension.
AT HOME: Running a household and managing a family can be taxing. Try short breathing exercises for stress management. There are plenty available on the internet. Try to practice “lips together, teeth apart”. If you catch yourself clenching, loosen up the jaw, let your teeth separate, and just relax your face while keeping your lips together, but teeth apart.
If you have 5 or more minutes, try singing to a favourite song, dancing with the kids for a few minutes, hugging your spouse, or taking a few minutes to be grateful for what you have.
Have 10 or more minutes? Go for a short walk, step out in to your backyard to enjoy some fresh air, or make yourself your favorite beverage and just take a break. Anything that reduces stress for you will help to reduce clenching and grinding of teeth that causes jaw pain.
You can also try a warm compress to help relax tight jaw muscles. A hot water bottle wrapped in a towel works well. You can also try wrapping a heating pad in a towel. If you don’t have either of those handy, a hot, damp cloth can also work.
AT THE DENTIST:
Tell your dentist about your symptoms.
Most tooth grinding and clenching happens at night while you sleep. Clenching and grinding can also cause the ligaments that hold your teeth in place to loosen over time, causing wiggly or “mobile” teeth. Left untreated, this can cause gum disease, or even tooth loss. Much of this is preventable with a night guard, which can be worn while asleep. Night guards are easy to have custom made for you, generally cost about $300, and if you have insurance, are often covered. The low cost of this treatment, as well as it’s effectiveness against the high costs of jaw pain, gum disease and worn out teeth makes it a great choice for many jaw pain sufferers.
If your TMD cannot be treated with a night guard, your dentist can talk to you about options for correcting the problem with braces, corrective dental crowns, or a referral to a specialist. Most often though, a night guard relieves the night time tooth grinding which causes most of the jaw pain reported by patients.