There’s no end to tips and home remedies for curing a toothache (some effective, some not), and it’s common knowledge that a visit to your dentist is in order if you can’t relieve it. Yet, when your jaw hurts, you might not find as much information about why or how to alleviate it.
Aside from a direct injury to your jaw, one of the most common reasons for jaw pain is TMJ disorder – a dysfunction in one or both of your jaw’s temporomandibular joints (TMJs). The good news is that, in many cases, your dentist can treat your jaw pain by treating TMJ disorder and its underlying cause(s).
TMJs – The Source of Jaw Pain
Temporomandibular joints are the two large joints that connect your mandible to your skull and act as pivots for your lower jaw to open, close, and move around. Because the joints must work in tandem, they need proper balance (i.e., straight teeth, symmetrical jaw, etc.) to operate properly. A bite imbalance, or untreated bruxism, can place an excessive amount of pressure on the joints and the muscles around them, causing joint damage, inflammation, misaligned joints, or more.
Next to each of your TMJs lies the largest of your 12 cranial nerve groups, known as the trigeminal nerve. The nerve group controls jaw movement and relays sensory information from all parts of your head, neck, face, and shoulders. When disturbed by TMJ disorder, the pain can travel throughout all three paths of the trigeminal nerve, leading to a host of symptoms, including chronic, often severe jaw pain.
Relieving Jaw Pain with TMJ Treatment
After a careful examination, your dentist can determine if your TMJs are in trouble, and can then discuss possible treatment options with you. For many patients, TMJ disorder and its associated discomfort can be addressed with a custom-designed mouthguard that positions your jaw more comfortably. The appliance can relieve pressure on your TMJs so they can heal, and will help realign your jaw to help the TMJs operate more smoothly. If you suffer from a bite imbalance, like crooked teeth, then you may require additional procedures, such as Invisalign® or ClearCorrect® clear braces to bring harmony back into your bite.