When to See a Dentist About Jaw Pain

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When to See a Dentist About Jaw Pain

Jaw pain is a common medical problem that can have a dramatic effect on your everyday activities. Because we rely on our jaws all day long, even minor pain can make it uncomfortable to bite, chew, speak, or even yawn or sneeze. 

Lots of issues can cause or contribute to jaw pain, including issues involving your teeth and the structure of your jaw joint. Diagnosing the cause of jaw pain is the first step in treating it and finding much-needed relief.

For patients in Toledo, Ohio, Timothy Tomase, DDS, and the team at Tomase Dental Care are trusted providers of jaw pain treatment, including patient-centered care for temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), a common cause of jaw pain. In this post, Dr. Tomase offers an overview of jaw pain with a focus on TMJ, including how to tell when it’s time to seek a dental evaluation.

Quick facts about jaw pain

Also called the temporomandibular joints, your jaw joints form where the lower jaw (or mandible) meets the upper part of your skull (specifically the temporal bone). Each joint contains a cushioning disc that helps your jaw move smoothly and without pain.

Lots of issues can cause jaw pain, including:

  • TMJ
  • Teeth grinding (bruxism) or clenching
  • Abscesses and other infections
  • Cavities
  • Arthritis
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth, jaw, or facial trauma

Because your jaw joints are located near major facial nerves, inflammation in or around the joint can cause facial pain or pain in your ears, too. 

While some jaw pain may be temporary — for instance, after eating a very chewy food, like taffy — chronic or recurring pain is usually a sign of a more serious problem that requires a prompt visit to our office.

TMJ: a special type of jaw pain

TMJ is a relatively common cause of jaw pain that arises from inflammation and irritation inside or around the jaw joint, or from muscle strain in the large muscles that control jaw movement. Like jaw pain in general, TMJ can be caused by different issues, including poor bite balance, missing teeth, bruxism, disc erosion, and even chronic stress that causes muscles to tighten.

In addition to jaw pain, TMJ is often accompanied by “sticking” sensations or clicking noises when you open and close your jaw. TMJ rarely goes away without help, and treatment depends on the specific issue that’s causing joint strain.

When to call the office

Pain is your body’s way of letting you know there’s a problem that needs to be fixed. Like other types of pain, jaw pain is never “normal.”

While it’s a good idea to have all types of jaw pain checked out by our team, you should call the office right away if you have jaw pain that:

  • Is severe
  • Is chronic or recurrent
  • Follows an injury
  • Is associated with swelling or tenderness
  • Is accompanied by a fever
  • Interferes with speech, eating, or other functions
  • Is associated with tooth pain
  • Causes headaches or facial pain

If you’ve had a facial injury or direct impact to your mouth, emergency care is essential for diagnosing and treating problems that could interfere with breathing or be associated with excessive bleeding or other complications.

Jaw pain should never be ignored

Like other oral health issues, jaw pain benefits from early management — and it can become a lot worse if you ignore it. To learn what’s causing your jaw pain and how we can help relieve it, call 419-670-6537 or request an appointment online at Tomase Dental Care today.