The joints in the jaw are a delicate mechanism that can easily be injured or inflamed due to chronic stress. It can make chewing and talking uncomfortable. Looking after our teeth is important, so is taking care of your jaw also a top priority. The three most common causes of jaw discomfort are sports injuries, car accidents, and stress.
Football balls and hockey pucks are great fun! But not so much when they cause heavy impacts 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.
Temporomandibular joint disorder(TMD) occurs when there is damage in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). The TMJ is a set of paired joints on each side of the face in front of the ear canals. These joints are very complex and have a disc that can be damaged or dislocated.
TMD involves jaw pain that is often accompanied by a muscle spasm in one or more of the large muscles on either side of the jaw. Following stress or an injury, the body attempts to prevent further damage by causing muscle spasms that restrict the movement of the jaw .
The ideal solution to this problem is to use an athletic sports guard. Made from soft materials to absorb the force of a sudden impact; a sports guard will protect the jaw and teeth against trauma on the sports field. The guard functions by distributing the force of a frontal impact or absorbing the sudden upward force of the mandible. If the guard were not in place, an impact on the chin could fracture numerous teeth.
A common side effect of a car accident is the accompanying jaw pain. 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 jerks, twists, and falls that happen when you are involved in a car accident, can damage your joints. In today’s modern cars many TMJ injuries may be caused by the sudden deployment of air bags during a crash. And the temporomandibular joint is susceptible. The injury is similar to that of a whiplash.
Temporomandibular joint disorder after a car accident can be treated as follows:
- The use of night guards,
- Regular physical therapy and ultrasound treatment, and
- Medications accompany by warm and cold compresses
Night guards, as the name indicates, are worn at night. They protect the teeth against wear-and-tear from grinding and clenching the jaw bone, which can agonize this condition. The night guards also encourages the jaw to move to a more relaxed position (centric relation)
A few simple jaw exercises and regular physiotherapy can make the joints in the jaw much more flexible after sustaining an injury and reduce muscle adhesions.
Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are commonly prescribed, the compresses help to flush out the lactic acid build up from the muscles.
Stress is the most common cause of temporomandibular joint pain. When we are stressed, we tend to grind our teeth (bruxism) and clench our jaws. This is often subconscious . This is usually seen during episodes of acute stress. Conversely, chewing gum to release such stress can aggravate the condition. After doing this for a long time, the temporomandibular joints will become inflamed and swollen. In many cases the teeth may not even make contact on one side. This frozen jaw and pain will need to be treated.
Thankfully, for most people, a night guard is the ideal solution, in conjunction with physiotherapy. Built to withstand repeated grinding and wear-and-tear, the hard shell of a night guard is used to distribute the biting force, reduce stress on the join and preserve opposing tooth structure.
If you are suffering from jaw pain, it probably is due to a sports injury, accident or stress. Dr. Ralph Bastian, at Bastian Dentistry, has over thirty-four years of dental experience. He is well-equipped to see to all your joint pain and to decide on the best course of action. For more information, contact us today.