Do you have throbbing jaw joint pain?
Pain in the jaw joint can hit all of a sudden like an electric shock, or it can be a chronic throbbing misery. The jaw joint is one of the most complex joints in the body, and it endures a lot of pushes, pulls and pressure during day to day life. Because the joint is so complex, there are a number of different potential causes for jaw joint pain.
Why does your jaw joint hurt?
Jaw joint pain most frequently develops because of one of the following: grinding and clenching, muscle inflammation, osteomyelitis, TMD, referred pain or spreading infection.
Grinding and Clenching
Grinding teeth at night or clenching teeth together as a stress response during the day are some of the most damaging habits for the teeth, the jaw and the jaw joint.
- The constant pressure stresses bone and gums and can cause recession and increase the risk of gum disease.
- This pressure strains the teeth and bite balance leading to toothaches, cracks and broken teeth.
- Pressure from grinding and clenching causes tension in the muscles and ligaments associated with the jaw joint leading to jaw joint damage and Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD).
Treating jaw joint pain caused by grinding or clenching can include custom made bite splints, nightguards, sleep apnea screening and stress reduction techniques. It is critical to both treat both the jaw pain and stop the damage caused by grinding and clenching.
Osteomyelitis is an infection that can affect the bone and causes jaw pain, jaw joint pain, fever and swelling if it infects the jaw bone. Left untreated, this infection can do damage throughout the body. Osteomyelitis is treated with antibiotic therapy and/or surgical removal of dead and infected bone.
Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD)
This disorder of the jaw joint is known for causing popping & clicking sounds as well as aching, throbbing jaw joint pain that can radiate into the ears and through the jaw and teeth. In TMD, the shock absorbing cartilage disk in the joint is damaged. In advanced cases of TMD, the joint disk is actually pulled out of place causing the jaw to get painfully stuck in an open or closed position. Treating TMD involves reducing inflammation and joint stress so that the cartilage disk can reposition itself and begin to regenerate. This can require a combination of custom made bite splints with interdisciplinary treatments for pain and stress reduction as well as screenings for contributing risk factors such as sleep apnea.
Gum Disease, Cavities & Abscesses
Some jaw and jaw joint pain isn’t actually in the jaw at all but is coming from an infection somewhere nearby. Intense pain can seem to be from the jaw when it’s actually radiating out from infected gums, teeth or nerves. The jaw can also ache from pressure put on broken down teeth, from sinus infections (upper jaw), and from biting and chewing in areas with gaps between teeth. In each of these cases, the jaw pain will go away when the root problem is treated.
Tooth Abscesses Cause Jaw Aches?
Most of us know how terribly toothaches can hurt. What not many people realize is that the abscesses that cause toothaches can spread into the jaw bone surrounding the tooth. As the infection moves into the bone it creates pressure and causes pain. Left untreated, it soon kills the bone which melts away from the invading infection.
When “No More Pain” is Dangerous
Pain is TERRIBLE, isn’t it? We all want pain to stop yesterday! When something stops hurting, we usually assume that everything is better, don’t we? That’s true when we’re talking about scrapes and cuts that are healing, but it’s NOT true for more complex health issues like jaw pain. Sometimes no pain is actually dangerous.
How is that possible? Think of pain like a fire alarm. What makes fire alarms go off? Fires! When does a fire alarm stop going off? It stops when the fire is gone OR when the Battery is Dead. That’s exactly how pain works in the mouth too. The pain stops when the problem is fixed OR when the nerves are dead and can’t sound off a warning anymore.
Jaw pain should always be addressed because it is a warning sign of TMD, of high risk health issues like sleep apnea, or of jaw infection. Jaw pain cannot be permanently cured without the right treatment and it gets more complicated the longer it develops.