My Jaw Really Hurts. What is wrong?

TMJ pain doesn’t always hurt, but on occasion, it can create a terrific amount of pain. The first thing to consider is where does it hurt? The jaw joint is extraordinarily complex. It is the only joint in the body that is tied physically to another joint which means when you move one joint the other moves as well. If the pain is actually in the jaw joint, it means the ligament has slipped enough to pinch the nerve tissue behind the joint. Other structures attached the function of the TMJ can hurt such as any one or all of the muscles that cause the joint to move. Many people also have ear pain that is confused for TMJ pain, as well as tooth pain that can radiate to the temple and be confused with TMJ Pain.

Try these tests and home:

  1. Locate the outside of the jaw-Slightly in front of your ear. If you open and close with your finger on the skin in front of your ear you should feel a firm structure push your fingers out–that is your TMJ. Once you have located the outside of the TMJ, then push on the bone. Does it hurt? If yes, that is most likely TMJ pain and should be evaluated.
  2.  For the next test, you need a plastic toothbrush without a rubber handle. Place the handle between your upper front teeth and your lower front teeth. Slide your lower teeth/jaw forward on the handle of the toothbrush. Next, slide your jaw backward and then squeeze your teeth together. Do you feel any pain in front of your ear when you squeeze or when you push forward? If the answer is yes, I recommend a TMJ evaluation.
  3. Another test is one of provocation. Put your hand on your chin and push against your hand while you resist your effort with the strength of your arm muscles. Do this pushing your chin forward and pushing it to the right and the left. Does this effort cause pain? Another sure fire sign of TMJ issues.
  4. Finally, give yourself a muscle exam. The muscles that control your jaw joint are the most common structures to experience TMJ pain. Gently massage the muscle above your ears around your temples and the muscles that run from the lower part of your jaw bone to your temple through your cheeks. Search for any knots and push against them. Even if you can not find a knot, push against the muscle with firm pressure. Does this pressure cause any discomfort? If you have pain, you should have your TMJ evaluated.

Medication will not solve the cause of your TMJ pain. It might take the edge off and give your body some time to adapt, but adapting to pain is not the same as treating pain. If you are in pain, I would love to help you solve your TMJ pain issues. Best Wishes.

If you are interested in scheduling a free eConsult with Dr. Cairns to discover if you might be a candidate for care please schedule on the following link: Schedule an eConsult

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