Why Does My Jaw Hurt?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ), or jaw joint, withstands a lot of abuse over the course of a lifetime. This joint is used more than any other in the body. TMJ is a hinge that connects the lower jawbone (mandible) and the upper jaw (maxilla) to the skull. This bony structure allows opening and closing of the mouth. Medical disorders or misalignment due to injury can result in jaw inflammation and sore jaw muscles.
What Causes Jaw Pain?
The jaw joint is a complicated mix of bones, tendons, and muscles. Damage to any of these areas may result in jaw tightness or other jaw discomfort. Both upper jaw pain and or lower jaw pain are common ailments, each the result of varying causes. Some individuals experience ear and jaw pain while chewing, others endure jaw discomfort regardless of movement. Besides painful chewing, many sufferers experience a clicking or popping sensation in the jaw, tooth pain and soreness throughout the face and neck area. It all depends on the source of the pain. There are conditions, unrelated to TMJ, that appear to induce jaw soreness. Some common health issues include heart disease or angina, osteoarthritis and trigeminal neuralgia, which affects the nervous system inducing pain in the face and jaw.
What Treatments are Available?
Oftentimes jaw soreness as a result of TMJ disorders will disappear without treatment. If symptoms become persistent consult your dentist for a consultation to evaluate the cause of your jaw pain. Non-prescription pain medication like Ibuprofen can be taken to alleviate ear and jaw pain and possibly diminish jaw inflammation. If necessary, your doctor may suggest stronger analgesics, a certain class of antidepressants or muscle relaxants. For individuals who clench their teeth while sleeping, a bite guard may be prescribed. If all else fails, your doctor may discuss injections or surgery to relieve your sore jaw muscles.