When your jaw hurts, one of the first things to come to mind is a TMJ disorder. Dr. Matthew Harrison is a Charlottesville, VA dentist helping patients find what’s causing their jaw pain, determine if it is TMJ-related, and return to a pain-free life. Here are some of the most common questions we receive about why their jaw hurts and what can be done to eliminate the discomfort.
Causes of Jaw Pain and TMJ
The ability to open and close your mouth is a surprisingly delicate and complex system of muscles, tendons, and bone working together. It is important to know that not all causes of jaw pain are due to TMJ disorders, which we will cover below. There are many factors that can contribute to jaw pain, but one of the most common causes is a long history of teeth grinding. This can happen both during sleep and during the day, especially in people with a stressful job or lifestyle. Teeth grinding, or bruxism, causes jaw pain because it places pressure on the mouth muscles for a long period of time.
You may also experience jaw pain from an uneven bite, such as an overbite or underbite, or have missing teeth. When teeth are not properly aligned or shift in the mouth, they may become overworked when chewing or speaking. Unevenly worn teeth can also contribute to premature tooth decay.
Is TMJ Causing My Jaw Pain?
Any pain associated with the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) on either side of your jaw is considered a TMJ disorder, or TMD. A TMD has a variety of symptoms, including:
- Jaw pain
- Neck pain
- Tension headaches
- Popping or clicking when opening or closing your mouth
- Chronic tooth grinding
TMJ is more difficult to identify and properly treat than many patients realize, but Dr. Harrison will carefully evaluate your situation to determine the best course of treatment.
Jaw Pain Treatments
The right treatment depends on the underlying reason for jaw pain. After detailed imaging and evaluation, your dentist will be able to recommend the best treatment.
For example, if a misaligned bite is the culprit, you may need orthodontics or oral surgery. If a missing tooth is causing pain, you may need to consider restorative dentistry to replace the tooth and help your natural teeth stay in place. Some patients may be recommended a night guard, which can help hold the teeth in a better position and help with tooth grinding.
Schedule your appointment online or call us at 434-227-5665 today to find out the best treatment for your jaw pain.