Why does my jaw hurt?
Do you have pain in or around your jaws? Does your jaw get stuck? Do you have painful clicking or popping? Are frequent headaches, a problem? If so, you may want to ask us about temporomandibular disorders (TMD).
Your temporomandibular joint (jaw joint) allows you to open or close your mouth and slide your jaw from side to side or back and forth. It is a complicated system of muscles, connective tissues, and the bony joint itself. Because it is so complex, your jaw joint can develop a number of problems.
Some possible causes of TMD include
Diseases that affect the muscles or joints, like arthritis
- Injury to the jaw joint or connective tissues
- Habitual movements of the teeth and jaws, like grinding or clenching
Other things, like sinus infections, can cause pain in your jaw area. We may want to rule some of these out before identifying TMD as the source of your pain.
Signs and symptoms of TMD can include
- Pain in or around the ear
- Pain when chewing
- Tender jaw muscles
- Painful clicking or popping when opening or closing the jaw
- Difficulty opening and closing the mouth
- Pain when opening your mouth wide
- Headaches, facial, or neck pain
One large, multiyear study also found that people who develop TMD are more likely to report chronic somatic symptoms-like runny nose, fatigue, or dizziness. Anxiety and depression have also been associated with TMD.
If TMD is suspected, we may check your joints and muscles for tenderness and listen for noises like clicking or popping, ask you about pain, and examine how your jaw moves. Symptoms may come and go or may bother you all the time.
It is difficult to identify the causes of TMD. Treatment usually focuses on relieving the symptoms associated with it.
There are several things you can try that might help:
- Eat softer foods
- Limit wide jaw movements
- Avoid chewing gum or biting down on anything hard
- Apply moist, warm compresses
If your pain is still a problem, we suggest scheduling an appointment for an exam. We might suggest:
- A night guard or bite plate to decrease stress placed on the TM joints and muscles
- Physical therapy
- Consultation with another specialist
Because the jaw joint is so complex, it can be difficult to identify what causes pain in and around the joint. Most treatment focuses on relieving the painful symptoms which may be multifactorial and include other specialists. However, most treatments involve reversible modalities which if followed can relieve the TMD discomfort long term!