Pain in Your Jaw
Have you ever awakened yourself in the middle of the night with a loud clenching or grinding sound? Do you wake up with a pain in your upper jaw? Do you sometimes have earaches? Do you have trouble sleeping? If so, please talk to us about bruxism. Bruxism is a habit of grinding or clenching the teeth. Clenching means you tigtly hold your top and bottom teeth together. Grinding occurs when you slide your teeth back and forth over each other. Bruxism can develop at any age. Although the causes of bruxism are not certain, several factors may be involved. Stressful situations, sleep disorders, an abnormal bite, crooked or missing teeth may be responsible.
We can examine and discuss with you the reasons and possible treatment for your jaw pain.
What is TMJ?
Most people suffer to a greater or lesser degree from TMJ. Although women report more pain from TMJ, TMJ in men causes as much or more damage to the teeth, gums, bones and joints. Children are especially sensitive to TMJ and usually show early signs with ear infections, leaning their head on an arm, lip, cheek, or finger biting, sucking or chewing, headaches, snoring, grinding of their teeth at night, and significant chewing of gum.
TMJ stands for “temporomandibular joint,” or jaw joint. These are the small joints in front of each ear that attach the lower jaw to the skull, and happen to be the most complex joints in the entire body. The area of the face where the TMJ is located is an intricate network of bones, including the teeth, muscles, and nerves. Because of this, TMJ (dysfunction) conditions affect many areas of the body, from the top of the head in migraine-like headaches to numbness or tingling in the arms and pain in the neck or shoulders. Usually, TMJ disorders stem from a condition called malocclusion, which means having a “bad bite” or accidents and trauma. Malocclusion means that your upper and lower teeth do not close together in the correct way—they are misaligned. This includes underbites and overbites. When the teeth are misaligned, they cannot provide the support the muscles in the face need for chewing and swallowing. These muscles are then forced into a strained position, resulting in pain throughout the face, head, arms, shoulders, and back. Although a person may have beautiful teeth or had orthodontics to line the teeth up for aesthetic reasons, the muscles and joints may not be comfortable.
What are Common TMJ Symptoms?
TMJ pain disorders usually occur because of unbalanced activity, spasm, or overuse of the jaw muscles. Symptoms tend to be chronic, and treatment is aimed at eliminating the precipitating factors. Many symptoms may not appear related to the TMJ itself. The following are common symptoms.
- Headache: Approximately 80% of patients with a TMJ disorder complain of headache, and 40% report facial pain. Pain is often made worse while opening and closing the jaw.
- Ear pain: About 50% of patients with a TMJ disorder notice ear pain and do not have signs of ear infection. The ear pain is usually described as being in front of or below the ear.
- Sounds: Grinding, crunching, or popping sounds are common for patients with a TMJ disorder. These sounds may or may not be accompanied by increased pain.
- Dizziness: Of patients with a TMJ disorder, 40% report a vague sense of dizziness or imbalance (usually not a spinning type vertigo). The cause of this type of dizziness is not well understood.
- Fullness of the ear: About 33% of patients with a TMJ disorder describe muffled, clogged, or full ears. They may notice ear fullness and pain during airplane takeoffs and landings.
- Ringing in the ear (tinnitus): For unknown reasons, 33% of patients with a TMJ disorder experience noise or ringing in the ears (tinnitus). Of those patients, half will have resolution of their tinnitus after successful treatment of their TMJ disorder.
If you experience any of these symptoms, call today for an examination. We can help.
The benefits of athletic mouth guards for contact sports go beyond just protecting the teeth. Injuries to the lip, tongue, cheek and temporomandibular joint account for many oral injuries. It’s even been suggested that mouth guards can limit concussions by cushioning an impact between the jaw and the skull. It is estimated by the American Dental Association that mouthguards prevent approximately 200,000 injuries each year in high school and collegiate football alone.
The American Dental Association has strongly suggested that participants in the following sports wear a mouthguard:
- Field Hockey
- Shot Put
- Water Polo
- Ice Hockey
- Inline Skating
- Field Events
- Martial Arts
A properly fitted mouthguard must be protective, comfortable, resilient, tear resistant, odorless, tasteless, not bulky, cause minimal interference to speaking and breathing, and (possibly the most important criteria) have excellent retention, fit, and sufficient thickness in critical areas. We do not recommend store bought boil and bite mouthguards to our patients. The public deserves the best quality of care in injury prevention and boil and bite mouthguards DO NOT provide this quality. Our mouthguards are custom fitted; vacuum fitted over an impression of the patient’s mouth.
If you or your child participate in any contact sport, call us. You need a mouthguard.