The joints in the jaw are a delicate mechanism that can easily be injured or worn down due to chronic stress. The TMJ is one of the most complex joints in the body. When malfunctioning, chewing can become torture. As much as looking after our teeth is important, so is looking after our jaw also a top priority. The three most common causes of jaw discomfort are sports injuries, car accidents, and stress.
- Sports Injury
Cricket balls and hockey pucks are great fun! But not so much when they cause trauma to the jaw. Trauma to the jaw can lead to a variety of dental problems including:
- A broken jaw,
- A dislocated jaw, or
- A temporomandibular joint disorder.
The TMJ is a set of paired joints on each side of the face in front of the ear canals. Temporomandibular joint disorder(TMD) occurs when there is damage in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) or the muscles associated with it.
TMD involves jaw pain that is often accompanied by a muscle spasm in one or more of the large muscle groups on either side of the jaw. Following stress or an injury, the body attempts to prevent further damage by locking the muscles and restricting jaw motion.
To minimize sports injuries, it is important to wear an athletic sports guard. Made from soft materials to absorb the force of a sudden impact; the sports guard will distribute and absorb the force over a large area, protecting the jaw and teeth against trauma.
- Car accident
A common side effect of a car accident is the accompanying jaw pain. In many cases, the jaw is struck as it impacts the vehicle or airbag. Pain in the jaw or facial area, trouble opening and closing the mouth, or having a jaw that seems to click or get stuck can happen after an accident. You do not have to directly hit your jaw during the accident for this to happen. A car exposes you to many types of movement not normally experienced. These sudden deaccelerations, twists, and falls that happen when you are involved in a car accident can damage your joints. The temporomandibular joint is particularly susceptible.
Temporomandibular joint disorder after a car accident can be treated as follows:
- The use of night guards, and
- Regular physiotherapy.
- Modified diet
- Anti-inflammatory medications
Night guards, as the name indicates, are worn at night. They protect the teeth against wear-and-tear from grinding and clenching the jaw. Unnecessary pressure and parafunction (abnormal movements) can aggravate this condition. A few simple jaw exercises, some dietary modifications and regular physiotherapy can reduce inflammation in the jaw and muscles.
Stress is a common cause of the temporomandibular joint disorder. When we are stressed, we tend to grind our teeth and clench our jaws – often without realizing this. After doing this for a long period of time, the temporomandibular joints take on a lot of extra pressure and the associated muscles often go into spasm. This can cause limitation in jaw motion and lead to pain with opening and closing and especially when eating hard foods.
While you may need a combination of therapies, a night guard is part of the solution. Built to withstand repeated grinding and wear-and-tear, the hard shell of a night guard will help calm your stressed muscles and allow the joint to recover and heal.
If you are suffering from jaw pain, either from a sports injury, accident or stress, Dr. Ralph Bastian, at Bastian Dentistry, is experienced in providing this form of therapy and is ready to treat this type of pain and speed up your recovery. For more information, contact us today.