Jaw pain is never something to ignore. Unfortunately, many patients do just that. If the pain develops gradually, it’s common to begin accepting it as an unavoidable part of your life. But this means feeling more and more uncomfortable, and experiencing growing stress and frustration. Since a great deal of jaw pain is actually caused by stress, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy that can trap patients.
Don’t let this happen to you. If there’s reason to suspect that jaw pain could be in your future (see below for high risk categories), take preventive action. It’s as simple as receiving regular dental care and treating your body right – read on for some universally accessible steps. If you’re experiencing pain today, get in touch for expert guidance.
Reasons for Jaw Pain
- Arthritis – Both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis impact the function of the jaw
- Injury to the jaw – Physical damage can harm the TMJ’s cartilage or disk
- Chronic grinding – Ongoing clenching and grinding places an unsafe amount of pressure on the jaw
- One of the connective tissue diseases that affect the jaw joint
- Infrequent dental exams – Jaw pain can result from an abscess or other advanced dental problem, which are able to take hold without regular exams
- Poor stress management – Stress has a tangible effect on the body, and especially on the jaw
Avoiding Future Jaw Pain
Find Time to Relax
Sounds simple, right? But when it comes down to it, relaxing personal time is hard to set aside. We’re all dealing with countless daily responsibilities and stresses – how are you releasing your anxiety? For some, this means exercise; for others, meditation or yoga. Still others need time by themselves to quietly reflect on the day, or play a musical instrument. If you’re not sure what relaxes you, take this opportunity to consider what helps you unwind.
Stress leads to muscle tension, especially in the head, jaw, neck, and shoulders. Pain in those areas is extremely distracting and difficult to ignore. It can turn us into lesser versions of ourselves, snapping easily and feeling uninterested in our usual hobbies. Take steps today to destress, and you’ll find that not only do your muscles feel more relaxed, but that your nights are more restful and days more fulfilling.
Invest in a Night Guard
Bruxism is a common problem for adults. We take out some of our internal tension by clenching and grinding our teeth. We most often do this at night, when we don’t notice what’s going on. That’s why bruxism can be tough to notice. If you’re seeing your dentist regularly, they will notice flat patches on your teeth and other symptoms and recommend a night guard.
A guard will protect your enamel and also stabilize your lower jaw. Your dentist will evaluate your bite and your bruxing and recommend a type of guard that fits you best.
Consider Orthodontic Treatment
If you already have a straight smile, be sure to take good care of your teeth and wear a retainer to preserve braces or Invisalign results. If your teeth don’t fit together comfortably, considering straightening may be a wise plan. For some, crooked teeth cause more discomfort as time passes. The jaws may not fit together properly, which leads to grinding and poor function.
See Your Dentist Regularly
Most patients should visit twice yearly to best prevent dental problems. This will allow you to get an early diagnosis and stop more serious issues from developing.
If you’re already experiencing jaw pain or stiffness, Dr. Kim Okamura offers a variety of treatment options, from Botox to splints. Schedule a consultation today to start seeking relief.