Three Types of Jaw Pain

TMD is a complicated disorder, so nothing about it is simple, not even what seems like the most straightforward symptom: jaw pain. Rather than causing one type of jaw pain, there are actually three types of jaw pain:

  • Jaw muscle pain
  • Jaw joint pain
  • Pinched nerve pain

These types of jaw pain aren’t exclusive. You could have one or more types, and the more types you have, the more likely it is that you have a complex form of TMJ. This could make treating your TMJ a challenge and prevent you from getting full relief with just one form of treatment.

Jaw Muscle Pain

Pain in your jaw muscles is the most common source of pain in TMJ. It might be that your jaw muscles are not working efficiently. This means that they have to work harder to do their normal daily activities, such as biting, chewing, talking, and more.

More often, though, jaw pain is linked to the fact that your jaw can’t find a comfortable resting position. Your muscles keep straining against your teeth and bones. Over the long term, your muscles will eventually damage your teeth and bones, but in the short term, it’s your muscles that suffer, developing painful strain.

This type of pain is more likely to be a dull, constant ache. Besides pain medication, it responds to a warm, wet compress. In addition, jaw muscle pain is associated with other TMJ symptoms, such as bruxism, headaches, face pain, and tinnitus. In some cases, face pain and headaches are simply another way of describing jaw muscle pain (remember, jaw muscles reach up to your temples).

Jaw Joint Pain

Jaw joint pain occurs specifically in the bones, tendons, and cartilage of the jaw joint itself. The disc in the jaw joint is supposed to cushion the bones from grinding against each other. When the tough cartilage gets out of place, softer, more vulnerable tissue can get caught in the joint. The bones themselves might rub together, creating bone fragments that irritate the surrounding tissue. You might see visible swelling at the joints.

This type of jaw pain can be both dull and achy or sharp and stabbing. Applying an ice pack to the joint will help, but the heat might actually make the pain worse. Other TMJ symptoms typically associated with this type of pain include: popping or clicking joints, irregular jaw motion, and a locked jaw.

a young man with jaw pain

Pinched Nerves

You might also have jaw pain that comes from nerves that are pinched or trapped because of the effects of your TMJ. One potential cause of pinched nerves is the irregular motion of a displaced jaw joint. When your jaw joint pops or moves suddenly, you might experience sudden, sharp pain. This pain then recedes but recurs frequently.

On the other hand, your pain might come from nerves that are pressured or trapped by muscles that are either overactive or swollen because of your jaw imbalance. In this case, the pain might be more constant, though it is more likely to occur after periods of heavy jaw activity. In this case, the most likely candidate for trapped nerves is the trigeminal nerve or its branches, which could mean the pain feels like it’s coming from a different part of your face as well. It might be linked to migraine headaches, as well.

When to Seek Professional Care for Jaw Pain

The truth is that many cases of TMJ and related jaw pain are transient and require nothing more than home care. So how do you know when to contact a professional about your jaw pain? Talk to a neuromuscular dentist about jaw pain that:

  • Persists for more than 7 days
  • Worsens under home care
  • Doesn’t respond to recommended doses of over-the-counter medication
  • Interferes with daily activities
  • Goes away but recurs regularly

These are indications that you might have a serious form of TMJ that requires professional care.

Contact Dr. Siegel for Jaw Pain Relief in Montgomery County

TMJ-related jaw pain can be hard to diagnose and even harder to treat. Dr. Siegel has helped hundreds of people in the Montgomery County area to get relief from their jaw pain. Using a scientific diagnostic process and advanced technology tools, he can objectively measure the condition of your jaw, helping him to find the proper TMJ treatment that will give you relief from jaw pain. When interdisciplinary treatment is required, he can lead a treatment team of specialists or participate in a team under the leadership of your physician.

You don’t have to live with TMJ-related jaw pain. Please call (610) 272-0828 today for an appointment with Dr. Siegel at Dental Excellence of Blue Bell.