Is Jaw Pain Tooth Related
The temporomandibular joint in the jaw is most commonly referred to by simply TMJ. TMJ issues can be pretty severe and often resemble dental pain because of its location. The TMJ connects your jawbone to your skull on each side of your face and is responsible for opening and closing your mouth. TMJ disorders occur when the joint becomes inflamed and irritated, a result of an underlying issue.
TMJ symptoms can be a result of arthritis pain or from grinding your teeth during the day or during sleeping hours. Symptoms may include pain in the jaw, around the ear, and pain when eating. In more severe cases, the jar can actually lock and make it difficult to open and close your mouth.
How do TMJ issues relate to tooth pain?
Pain in the TMJ can radiate to other parts of your face, neck, and head. The joint is located near a number of muscles, nerves, and ligaments and in some cases, the referred pain can radiate downward to make it feel like it is coming from your teeth. TMJ pain that radiates upward will cause you to feel pain in your head, ears, and even your eyes.
Pain from TMJ can be dull or sharp and searing, causing either intermittent symptoms or constant discomfort. A toothache can cause similar pain, which may cause patients to believe they are suffering from a toothache instead of a TMJ disorder. TMJ also causes tooth pain by irritating trigger points. Trigger points form when the muscle becomes contracted and stiff, preventing oxygenated blood from reaching the area, allowing toxins to be held, causing tenderness.
Can dental pain cause TMJ pain?
A severe toothache or abscess in an upper molar can refer to pain in other parts of the face including the temporomandibular joint. When a patient receives restorative dental treatment such as dental crowns, it can affect their bite. When the bite is off, extra strain is applied to the jaw joint causing the joint to become irritated and inflamed which, left untreated, can cause long-term TMJ issues.
If a problem tooth is the culprit of TMJ pain, having the tooth treated should resolve any referred pain. A lot of dentists advise their patients to sleep with a night guard which can greatly relieve any grinding and stress applied to the jaw at night.
How do I know if I have pain from a TMJ issue or a toothache?
Any pain related to your teeth and jaw should be addressed by your dentist as soon as possible. They will be able to evaluate your mouth to check for tooth decay or an abscess and if that is the problem, they can fix it for you! If they believe you have a TMJ issue, they may refer you to a physical therapist or other pain clinic for treatment.
If you noticed a tooth becoming more sensitive to hot and cold or sugar, you likely have a cavity. If you are able to massage your temporomandibular joint and the pain lessens, you might have a TMJ issue. Either way, it is important to seek treatment right away to prevent further or even permanent damage.