By Dr. Brittany Correll
Do you suffer from jaw pain? Have you been to several dentists, your primary care provider, and have you still not gotten an answer? At Spinal and Sports Care Clinic, the jaw is one of our specialties. In this brief post, we’ll talk about the three main reasons your jaw might be hurting. The medical name for the jaw is the TMJ, or the Temporal Mandibular Joint. There are many associated symptoms that occur with jaw dysfunction including: headaches, face pain, tooth pain, ear pain, jaw popping, jaw locking, ringing in the ears, and neck pain. So, let’s talk about what might be happening to your jaw.
In times of high stress many people end up clenching or grinding their teeth. This is known as bruxing. If high stress levels are prolonged, the jaw muscles get tired and sore from clenching and grinding and will start to cause pain in the cheeks and temples. Temporal mandibular disorders and headaches are commonly seen together, and we also start to see pain with chewing, talking or yawning. Tight and painful jaw muscles can also cause referred pain to the ear and even to the teeth depending on which muscle is irritated. Sometimes patients have a feeling of fullness in the ear or a ringing in the ear that can be caused by tight and irritated jaw muscles.
It is not commonly known that the TMJ has a disc within the joint. This is a fibrous disc that is different from the discs in your spine. The disc helps the jaw joint move through its unique range of motion but can cause issues if it is under stress. TMJ disc issues can show up as a clicking, popping and/or locking of the jaw. The disc can get caught from grinding your teeth at night, clenching your teeth, trauma, or biting down wrong when eating. Disc issues can cause jaw opening to be reduced and cause jaw pain when opening the mouth. Disc issues can also cause jaw muscle and jaw joint irritation. When the jaw joint is affected, there is sharp pain in front of the ear, over the joint. Pain in and around the ear is a common complaint.
Trauma to the TMJ:
A trauma to the TMJ is an injury to the jaw joint resulting in muscle strain and or ligament and joint sprain. There are several types of traumas that involve the jaw and can include: a hit to the face or jaw, falling onto the face or jaw, whiplash, car accident, concussion, biting down on something very hard and even biting into something very large (Chipotle!). Usually pain in front of the ear is the main complaint and it can involve both the muscles and discs. Inflammation will be present and using the jaw becomes very difficult and painful. Opening of the jaw is almost always limited, and sometimes your teeth will touch unevenly.
While the three main causes of pain are listed here, this list is not complete. If you want to read up some more on TMJ issues, click here. To read some interesting material on other causes, click here! If you are looking for jaw pain relief, please call our clinic today at 509-596-0545. Our trained doctors are happy to help you.