Jaw pain or TMJ pain is a very common problem today. It’s a sign your jaw joint or TMJ (temporomandibular joint) could be inflamed.
A jaw ache, headaches, migraine, or a throbbing ache in and around your ear could be your concern. TMJ symptoms additionally consist of a clicking sound when opening your mouth or need to chew. The right TMJ treatment is vital in relieving you of the pain.
What is TMJ and What Causes TMJ Jaw Pain?
TMJ allows movement for chewing and talking. The joint connects the lower jaw and the bone on the side of the skull. This allows movement both up and down as well as side to side. It’s one of the most complex joints in the body and can be difficult to treat effectively if the joint is severely damaged.
TMJ, Migraine and Headache Causes:
• Grinding teeth or night bruxism
• Wear and tear of the joint
• Trauma to the head or face
• An uneven bite, caused by crooked teeth
Symptoms of TMJ Jaw Pain
The symptoms of TMJ Jaw Pain include jaw clicking and popping, earaches, popping sounds in the ears, stiff or sore jaw muscles, locking of the joint, headaches, migraines, pain in the temple area and pain in the jaw joint.
Can Headaches and Migraines be caused be Caused by the Jaw?
Headaches and migraines can be caused by jaw pain. Constantly clenching and grinding your teeth can act as triggers for headaches, the type that lead to migraines. You may be grinding your teeth at night or during the day in times of stress and not even be aware of it.
Why does My Jaw Hurt for No Reason?
Jaw and facial pain is a common problem. With so many likely causes of jaw pain, the correct diagnosis is essential. These causes may be associated with nerve or blood vessel problems as well as physical injuries. The most common cause is the temporomandibular joint disorder.
The other causes of jaw or facial pain are:
• Osteomyelitis – A condition where an infection in the body affects the bones and related tissues.
• Arthritis – Conditions such as otheoarthritis and osteoarthrosis lead to the surface of the bones wearing away.
• Synovitis and Capsulitis – These conditions include the lining of the joint or a connecting ligament being inflamed.
• Dental Conditions – Problems like gum disease, tooth gaps, cavities and damaged teeth.
• Sinus – The nasal cavities are affected.
• Neuropathic Pain – The pain occurs when the nerves are damaged and send pain signals to the brain.
• Vascular Pain – The pain occurs when the supply of blood to a part of the body is disrupted.
• Neurovascular Pain – This is caused by conditions that affect both the nerves and blood vessels such as migraines and cluster headaches.
Can Stress and Anxiety Cause Jaw Pain?
Stress contributes to you clenching more frequently than usual. This creates more pressure within the jaw which eventually leads to poor control of the muscles responsible for opening and closing the mouth.
Anxiety, on the other hand, creates jaw pain through clenching and tension.
7 Exercises to Relax Your Jaw and Alleviate TMJ
1. Progressive Relaxation
This helps in reducing the over-contraction of your jaw muscles.
Clasp your jaw as tight as you can, then allow your jaw to fall open. Keep your hand under your chin and press gently as you open your jaw, then let your jaw relax. Then, move your jaw to the right and relax for a while. Again, move your jaw to the left, then relax.
2. Jaw Stretch
This exercise extensively stretches your masticatory muscles in your jaw that are responsible for chewing and grinding.
Use your fingertips to massage your jaw muscles in small circular motions. Now open your mouth as wide as you can. Hold your stretch for 10 seconds, and then relax your jaw. Repeat 10 times.
3. Visualization Exercise
This exercise will relax your jaw, facial and shoulder muscles.
Find a comfortable chair to sit on and breathe in a rhythmic pattern. Slowly, inhale deeply through your nose and exhale out of your mouth. Keep your mouth closed and press your tongue firmly on the top of your mouth, then relax. Now, clasp your jaw muscles tightly for a few seconds, then relax. Squeeze your face as though you’ve tasted something sour, then relax. Lastly, lift your shoulders up to your ears and hold the contraction for a few seconds and relax. Then, focus on your breath for a few seconds.
4. Goldfish Exercises
Keep your tongue on the roof of your mouth, placing one finger on your TMJ and the other on your chin. Drop your lower jaw entirely and back. Repeat six times to complete one set.
5. Resisted Opening and Closing of the Mouth
Place your thumb on your chin and open your mouth slowly. Push gently against your chin for resistance. Hold for six seconds, and then close your mouth slowly.
6. The Yawn-Sigh
This exercise relaxes your jaw, throat, face and body.
Open your mouth as wide as you can, taking a deep yawn. As you inhale, stretch your jaw muscles and tighten your shoulders. Gradually exhale and relax your muscles completely. Repeat the exercise a few times.
7. Side to Side Jaw Movement
Use stacked tongue depressors about a ¼ inch, between your front teeth and slowly move your jaw from side to side. Gradually increase the thickness of the object between your teeth by stacking them on top of each other.
Other Ways to Manage Your TMJ Pain
• Pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen
• Mouth guards prevent teeth grinding and jaw clenching
• Mouth guards realign your jaw
• Warm towels
• Wrap ice with a towel and put on your jaw for 15 minutes
• Pressure point and acupuncture treatment
Early TMJ treatment will allow you to chew well, speak right and allow uninterrupted sleep.
Dr. Joshua Hong is the principle at the Cosmetic Dental Clinic in Goodyear, AZ with a singular focus on creating true value for patients. He believes in patient education along with providing the best dental care for each patient while making sure that his patients feel comfortable and at ease during each consultation, treatment, and procedure.