Why Does My Jaw Hurt? Is it TMJ?

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One of the most common dental problems we treat at Ridgetop Dental Group is jaw pain. Dr. Datta Malyavantham and his team of experienced TMJ dentists in Northern VA are highly trained in diagnosis and treatment of oral health problems. Here are some of the most common questions we receive about TMJ disorders and jaw pain that can help you find long-term pain relief.

What Causes Jaw Pain?

Despite our ability to apply lots of pressure to chew and grind our food, opening and closing your mouth is a surprisingly complex and delicate system of tendons, muscles, and bones working together. With so many things involved, there are several places where jaw pain can start. One of the most common causes is a long history of teeth grinding, or bruxism. This causes jaw pain because it places pressure on the mouth muscles for a long period of time.

Missing teeth or a problem with bite alignment can also cause jaw pain. When teeth are not properly aligned or have shifted position, it can cause unnatural pressure on the jaw. Unevenly worn teeth or misaligned teeth can also contribute to premature tooth decay.

Do I Have A TMJ Disorder?

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 our Ridgetop Dental Group team has advanced training and extensive experience diagnosing and treating TMJ disorders. We’ll carefully evaluate your situation to determine the best course of treatment.

How is TMJ Treated?

Treatment depends on the underlying cause, and requires detailed imaging and thorough examination. For example, if tooth grinding is found to be the cause, you may try a night guard to keep the jaw apart to avoid excessive pressure on the jaw. On the other hand, 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.

How Do I Stop Jaw Pain?

While a formal diagnosis and treatment is best, there are some at-home remedies you can try while you’re waiting for your appointment. Ibuprofen helps reduce swelling, as does an ice pack on the jaw. You may also want to set reminders to relax, release jaw and neck tension, and gently massage your neck and jaw.

Schedule your appointment online or call us today to find out the best treatment for your jaw pain.

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