TMJ Can Cause Jaw Pain and Headaches
Do you wake up in the morning with pain in your jaws? Do you have popping or a feeling that your jaw is locked up? That has probably happened to most of us. However, if that pain continues and becomes chronic, it is very uncomfortable and not the result of laughing.
Pain in the jaws and headaches are often signs of TMD (sometimes called TMJ), which is short for Temporomandibular Dysfunction. This can be a severe and debilitating problem, with pain when chewing, noises and pain when opening or closing your mouth, and the threat of headaches.
Possible causes of the temporomandibular joint disorder are:
- Injury to the jaw, the joint, or muscles of the head and neck, such as from a heavy blow or whiplash
- Grinding or clenching your teeth
- Dislocation of the ball and socket
- Arthritis in the TMJ
We have to look at several issues when we see a patient who suffers from TMD. First, we have to assess the overall health of the Temporomandibular Joint itself. We can do this at the Chesapeake Center for Complete Dentistry through Cone Beam Computerized Tomography. This image will be taken on-site and sent to a Maxillofacial Radiologist for review. This is the critical starting point for diagnosis.
Second, we have to look at how the jaws relate to each other to see if there is a discrepancy between where the teeth guide the jaws to close and where joints fit into their socket. If the problem is related to jaw position, we have to figure out a better position carefully and then how to make a bite splint that will allow your jaw to rest in that pain-free position.
Third, we have to see whether you are grinding or clenching your teeth during the night. This can be enough to trigger a muscle spasm and jaw fatigue. Grinding and clenching aggravate the trigeminal nerve, a facial nerve that affects three areas: the eyes and forehead, upper jaw, and lower jaw. In reaction to stress, the trigeminal becomes overstimulated, causing migraines and another chronic discomfort.
Treatment for jaw pain can be as simple as adjusting one or two teeth, designing a splint to be worn over the teeth at night, working with physical therapists as part of your plan, or even referral to an oral surgeon (in extreme cases).
Treatment Options for TMD/TMJ:
- Medications. Your dentist can prescribe higher doses of anti-inflammatories if you need them to combat pain and swelling further. We work very hard to resolve your pain, so medication will not be necessary.
- An occlusal orthotic or splint. Unlike a “night guard” or a plastic mouthpiece, most offices would fabricate. Our office designs our appliances on the computer that simulates your jaw movements. Once developed, the appliance is then printed by our trained staff, and we precisely fit and adjust it to create the appropriate alignment for your jaw. As your muscles relax, the appliance will often need many adjustments until your condition stabilizes and your pain is resolved. This process has helped hundreds of patients in our office. Dr. Cranham has had extensive training in treating TMJ problems and teaches dentists his protocols.
- Dental work. Your dentist can replace missing teeth and use crowns, bridges, or braces to balance the biting surfaces of your teeth or to correct a bite problem.
- Referral to trained professionals who work with Dr. Cranham. It can often be helpful for patients who have chronic muscle pain to work with a physical therapist. Dr. Cranham works with some highly trained PTs who have extensive head and neck pain training. He will make the appropriate referral if needed. Additionally, if you have a severe issue inside the joint, sometimes surgical intervention is required. While this is not necessary most of the time, Dr. Cranham does have relationships with highly trained oral surgeons, should that referral be necessary.
If you are having jaw pain, we need to see you and make a diagnosis so we can find a way to get you comfortable again. You don’t need to suffer any longer! Call our office today, and let’s get you on a path to a pain-free life.