A Danville, Pennsylvania woman recently amazed her doctors when she came in for treatment of face swelling. She had been suffering intermittent jaw pain and hearing problems, although it never took her to the doctor. When she did go to the doctor, surgeons were shocked by what they found.

It Wasn’t the Jaw Pain That Brought Her to the Doctor

Jaw xray by Hominidae on FlickrThe woman’s intermittent jaw pain wasn’t all that severe by her own account. It wasn’t until she suffered significant swelling on the side of her face that she decided to see a doctor. The clue that it was something serious was when she couldn’t fit a Q-tip in her ear (which isn’t generally recommended anyway). But when she came in, doctors also recognized something was wrong.

They knew that there was a growth on the condyle of her jaw. This is the rounded end of the jawbone that makes up half of the temporomandibular joint.
Suspecting cancer, they performed surgery, but they found that the growth wasn’t cancer, it was something they couldn’t recognize. Testing revealed it to be tophaceous gout, inflammatory tissue buildup caused by accumulation of uric acid in the joint. Normally, gout affects people’s hands and feet, and it’s very rare for it to affect the temporomandibular joint. The doctor said, “There’s been very few cases of this reported in the literature.”

Unfortunately, by the time they performed surgery, the condyle was so damaged that it could not be made functional again and had to be replaced with an artificial jaw joint.

Don’t Ignore Jaw Pain

This woman wasn’t suffering from TMJ, but there are some lessons in common. Minor but chronic pain must still be taken seriously. After all, it may be the sign of a progressive condition that, left untreated, can worsen. In both the case of gout and TMJ, early treatment can lead to minimal interventions (such as medication for gout or a bite splint for TMJ), but postponing treatment can make surgery the only option.

If you’re suffering from chronic jaw pain, we can help. Please call (610) 272-0828 for an appointment with a Philadelphia TMJ dentist at Dental Excellence of Blue Bell.