By Tanglewood Dental
July 15, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: jaw pain  
DiagnosingyourJawPain

If you were recently in an accident or received a hard hit while playing sports and you have been feeling jaw pain ever since, you may be suffering from a serious injury. It is important that you make an appointment with us immediately, so that we can conduct a proper examination, make a diagnosis and prescribe a suitable treatment. Even if the pain is lessening, you should still make an appointment.

Without seeing you, we have no way of definitively diagnosing the cause of your pain. However, here are a few possibilities:

  1. You displaced a tooth or teeth.
  2. You indirectly traumatized or injured the jaw joint (TMJ — temporomandibular joint). This trauma will cause swelling in the joint space, and the ball of the jaw joint will not fully seat into the joint space. If this is the issue, it is likely that your back teeth on the affected side will not be able to touch. Over time, the swelling should subside, allowing the teeth to fit together normally.
  3. You may have a minor fracture of your lower jaw. The most common is a “sub-condylar” fracture (just below the head of the joint), which will persist in symptoms that are more severe than simply bruising and swelling.
  4. You may have dislocated the joint, which means the condyle or joint head has been moved out of the joint space.

All of the above injuries can also cause muscle spasms, meaning that the inflammation from the injury results in the muscles on both sides of the jaw locking it in position to stop further movement and damage.

The most critical step is for you to make an appointment with our office, so we can conduct a physical examination, using x-rays to reveal the extent of your injury. We'll also be able to see whether the injury is to the soft tissue or bone.

Treatment may involve a variety of things, including anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant medications. If your teeth have been damaged, we'll recommend a way to fix this issue. If you have dislocated your jaw, we may be able to place it back through gentle manipulation. If you have fractured your jaw, we'll need to reposition the broken parts and splint them to keep them still, so that they can heal.

If you would like more information about jaw pain, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Jaw Pain.”

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