That ache in your jaw is growing stronger by the day. The pain is constant and it’s starting to get in the way of everyday tasks. How can you focus on your work, doing laundry, or cooking dinner when your jaw is throbbing?
You know the pain is radiating from your jawbone. And while you may be inclined to turn to your family doctor for a diagnosis, a dentist should be your first stop. A dental professional focuses primarily on the teeth and gums, but they can also help with jaw pain, most often associated with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain. Sometimes this type of pain goes away on its own, but other times it requires medical attention.
The most common signs of TMJ or jaw pain include:
- Tenderness in your jaw
- Pain when you bite
- Frequent headaches
- Clicking or popping sounds when moving the jaw
- Pain in the neck, face or shoulders
- Muscle spasms and soreness
A dentist can help by narrowing down the cause of your jaw pain. He or she will examine your mouth and jaw, listen for clicking or popping noises, and test your bite. They may also perform a dental X-ray. If the cause is related to a dental or oral health issue, he or she can develop a treatment plan that gets to the root of the problem and eases the TMJ pain.
Treatment for Jaw Pain
The most common treatment for TMJ is prescribing a bite guard. Poor teeth structure can cause problems with your bite, which can lead to jaw pain. A bite guard can also help prevent teeth grinding (bruxism) while you sleep.
A bite guard is a set of plastic mouthpieces that fit over your upper and lower teeth. Your dentist will work with you to get the right sized bite guard. He or she may recommend that you wear the bite guard at night while sleeping, during the day, or both. Either way, the goal is to prevent teeth grinding, correct your bite, and eliminate the source of the jaw pain.
Another cause of jaw pain is periodontal disease, also known as gum disease. This progressive condition causes gum recession, tooth decay, and eventually tooth loss, and all of these can create pain in the jaw. Your dentist can diagnose this condition and treat it with scaling and root planing. By working to treat the periodontal disease, jaw pain should decrease over time.
Toothaches and infections are other sources of jaw pain, especially when ignored for too long. A tooth infection is serious and should not be ignored. Your dentist can diagnose an infection in untreated tooth decay and treat it before it causes further health issues, like spreading to other parts of the body. Treating the infection can, in turn, treat the jaw pain.
Over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can temporarily reduce the level of pain you’re experiencing in your jaw, but these are not long-term solutions to the problem. The best way to eliminate your jaw pain is to determine the cause with help from a dental professional. He or she can offer a treatment plan that will get rid of the jaw discomfort for good.
Family Dentistry and Emergency Dentistry in Columbus Ohio
We are proud to offer family dentistry and emergency dentistry to our patients in Central Ohio. Call us for your routine dental checkup. Contact us today to learn more!