Is TMJ Causing Your Jaw Pain?

There are many common causes for jaw pain that should be considered before jumping to conclusions.

Bruxism, the grinding of the teeth, can cause jaw pain. This may be less obvious because bruxism often occurs during sleep and can manifest as clenching, as well as grinding. This is bad for the teeth and the jaw.  Stress is also a big factor in jaw pain; common signs of stress involve clenching the jaw at all times, even during sleep. If your natural jaw position seems to be “tightly clenched,” you may be suffering from stress.

What is TMJ?

TMJ is often used to refer to pain in the area, but TMJ actually refers to the temporomandibular joints. They are the muscles, ligaments and bones that facilitate chewing and speaking and allow the jaw to open and close.

The symptoms of TMJ disorders

Obviously, pain or swelling in the jaw is the most common symptom of TMJ disorders. It may not always be bilateral (on both sides), so may only affect one side of the jaw. Sometimes the pain can radiate back to the ear, which can sometimes be confused as ear pain alone. If the ear pain also coincides with pain while chewing, it could be a sign of a TMJ disorder.

The causes of TMJ pain

As mentioned earlier, stress and teeth grinding can cause TMJ pain. However, injury can also be a factor, even if the injury to the jaw occurred years ago. Scar tissue can build up, obstruct the joints and cause discomfort.

TMJ pain can also be caused by misaligned teeth (actually a misaligned jaw), which can put constant strain on the joints.

Arthritis can sometimes cause pain in the jaw too, as it can affect any joints in the body.

Treatment for TMJ discomfort

Obviously, the first step with any chronic pain is to visit your doctor.

The second step is to employ methods that will not only manage the pain but also prevent the kind of damage that may be causing the pain in the first place. Try using heat packs to sooth and loosen the muscles and ligaments in the jaw, which can be followed up with techniques like mindfulness and meditation to induce relaxation.

Managing stress is also vital, as it not only causes things like jaw pain but can also make your body struggle to recover from any wound or damage. Medications for anxiety can help with managing stress, and anti-inflammatories can help deal with the pain and prevent more damage.

Also, consider a mouthguard to wear while you sleep, which is available in any drugstore.

Dealing with TMJ pain in the long term

Visiting a dentist or doctor is the first thing you should do when considering the treatment of long-term jaw pain. They can prescribe medication, techniques and even procedures that can either repair the damage or stop the problem altogether.

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