The jaw joint, medically referred to as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), is made up of the bone below the mouth (the mandible, commonly referred to as the jawbone) and the bone just above the mouth (the maxilla). The TMJ allows the upper jaw to close on the lower jaw and is one of the most frequently used joints of the body.
The TMJ is a complex structure containing muscles, tendons and bones. Injury to, or disorders of, these structures can all result in pain in the jaw area. Jaw pain may occur on one side or on both sides, depending upon the cause. Also depending upon the exact cause, the pain may occur when chewing or may occur at rest.
Some of the symptoms that may be experienced are:
• Pain or tenderness of the jaw and/or teeth
• Facial pain
• Ear pain, ringing in the ear
• Difficulty in chewing
• Locking of the jaw
• Clicking sound or grating sensation when opening the mouth or chewing
What can I do if I have jaw pain?
Jaw trauma and injury is common and often resolves with time and rest. Compared to injuries in other joints, it is almost impossible to completely rest the jaw. However, it is important to give the injured tissue time to cycle through the natural stages of the healing process. Just like it hurts to keep walking on a twisted ankle, it also hurts to keep using a sprained jaw joint. Following are some useful tips which may help you to rest your jaw and give it a chance to heal itself.
Tips for Jaw Pain:
1. Keep your jaw in neutral posture: place tongue on roof of mouth, teeth apart, lips together and breathe through your nose.
2. Maintain good neck posture: the jaw and neck are critically dependant on each other.
3. Try both heat packs and cold packs.
4. Trial both anti-inflammatories and analgesics (e.g. Panadol). Do not exceed the guidelines on the packet and consult your G.P. if you are unsure whether it is right for you.
5. Avoid stressful situations! Do whatever works for you to relax.
6. Cut food into small pieces to avoid opening your jaw past 20mm (2 fingers high). Try to chew evenly on both sides of your mouth (within reason).
7. Do not eat hard and chewy foods. Choose soft foods like pasta or fish. You don’t have to eat soup.
8. Tear food with your front teeth (e.g. crusty bread rolls).
9. Chew gum, pens or ice - no biting nails.
By modifying your lifestyle and eating habits in accordance with these nine simple guidelines, you should be able to avoid the jaw movements that cause your pain to persist. If your jaw is not getting better with these exercises, please call Woden Integrated Physiotherapy to book an appointment with a physiotherapist experienced in dealing with jaw pain. When booking, it is important to mention that you need help with your TMJ.