The jaw joint also called the temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) comprises of bone above the mouth called maxilla and bone below the mouth called mandible (commonly known as the jawbone). The TMJ is one of the most frequently use joint in our body.
The joint comprises of complex structures like bones, muscles and tendons. So, any disorder or injury or trauma to these structures may cause jaw pain. Depending on the cause and origin the pain can be one sided or both sided. Medical condition like heart attack (pain occur in the chest but can radiate to the jaw area), arthritis,etc. and other conditions like sinusitis and ear pain can also cause jaw pain. Sometimes,jaw pain can be from trigeminal neuralgia or from habits like clenching of the jaw and grinding of the teeth. Can also be from cyst, tumor, infections, etc.
It is also an indicator of various diseases. So, if a person experience jaw pain on one or both sides of the jaw or in front of the ear then more likely it may be due to temporomandibular joint disorder.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF CHRONIC JAW PAIN
Chronic jaw pain or temporomandibular joint disorder comprises of many different symptoms and signs. Of which the most common symptoms are difficulty in opening and closing of the mouth and pain while eating and chewing.
Often patient complaint of clicking sound appearing while opening or closing of the mouth.
Symptoms like Headache, dizziness, migraine,shoulder pain, earache or ringing sensation in the ears (tinnitus) are common. The pain may also radiate to the face.
CAUSES OF CHRONIC JAW PAIN
In most cases, people with chronic jaw pain may be due to bruxism. Bruxism is a habit of grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw unconsciously.
It is a nocturnal activity which occurs during sleep. Another common cause is due to excessive opening of the jaw beyond its normal limit. Sometimes, trauma to the jaw can cause dislocation and results in chronic jaw pain.
Excessive chewing of gum and nail biting habit can be associated with jaw pain.
There are no clear relationship between temporomandibular joint disorder and systemic diseases but based on studies, around two-third of the people suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder reported to be suffering from three or more related systemic issues.
The aim of the treatment is to reduce pain and discomfort and to restore the normal function of the jaw to minimal.
For Temporary Relief
1) Hot or cold application
Wrap ice in a thin cloth and apply on the face for 10 mins and can be apply again. Wet a towel or cloth with warm water and apply it on the jaw. The cloth can be re-wet numerous times to maintain the heat.
Massaging the area Using middle finger and index finger rub the area of the jaw or the area before the ear where jaw joints meet, in circular motion for around 10 rotations and open the mouth and repeat.
Most doctors recommend non-invasive treatment initially for jaw pain but if the jaw pain still persists consult a specialist for further management. Further interventions listed below can relief the chronic pain to minimal if not cure –
Change in lifestyle and stress reduction
Practice calming and stress reduction methods as stress may increases muscle tension and jaw clenching.
Exercise and massaging of the jaw can be perform to strengthen jaw muscles, improve mouth opening and jaw flexibility. Correction of poor posture may also strengthen neck muscles.
A custom made appliance use to guard or protect teeth to be wore on upper and lower teeth. It does not allow teeth to be in direct contact thereby protecting the teeth from the consequences of grinding teeth. Wearing at bedtime can help stop from unconsciously grinding of the teeth.
Drugs like anti inflammatory drugs (nabumetone, meloxicam, celecoxib), muscle relaxants (metaxalone, cyclobenzaprine), antidepressants (nortriptyline, amitriptyline) tranquilizers, etc. can be used to relief pain.
When Botox injection is injected into the jaw muscles, the botulinum toxin keep muscles of the jaw from clenching but may require re-injection. It is one of the invasive treatment.
In severe cases or when other treatment options fail to give relief, this treatment is done especially to people who have severe jaw pain due to structural problems in the jaw joint. Here,correction of jaw joint or other supporting muscles are done. Rarely, a total joint replacement surgery is also done. Sometimes, some patient believe that surgery worsen the condition so this treatment is seldom done as a last treatment option.
The symptom of chronic jaw pain tends to be episodic in nature and more related to stress and lifestyle. A dedicated and persistent self care, lifestyle change and stress reduction, etc are few important measures to be cared upon as chronic jaw pain can be cure and preventable .