When you experience stiffness and/or pain in your jaw, it can have a dramatic impact on your life. It may make it hard to chew food, affecting your nutritional intake. Or it could lead to trouble speaking, smiling, laughing, and generally interacting with others.
If you’re plagued by intermittent or chronic jaw pain, you need help to diagnose the cause and find a cure that will let you return to your normal activities and lead a healthy and happy life. Here are just a few common causes for a stiff or painful jaw, as well as what you can do to correct them.
The temporomandibular joints (TMJs) are the hinges on either side of your jaw that allow you to open your mouth to speak, chew, and so on. Injury, excessive use, and arthritis are just some of the things that could cause stiffness or pain in the TMJ, leading to a condition known as Temporomandibular Joint and Muscle Disorder, or TMD. When you know what’s causing TMD you can begin to treat it, but you can also alleviate symptoms with heat, ice, massage, and/or OTC pain relievers like ibuprofen.
This condition is characterized by unconscious clenching or grinding of teeth, and is often attributed to stress. Bruxism can not only affect teeth, leading to cracks, chips, and unusual wear, but it can also cause pain and stiffness in the jaw and neck, and even lead to the onset of headaches and migraines.
The good news is that there are a couple of good solutions. Your dentist can fit you for a custom night guard that should help to reduce the pain symptoms associated with bruxism. However, you should also address the root of the problem and seek ways to reduce stress in order to eliminate bruxism altogether.
Injury, Illness, or Infection
If your jaw is generally in good working order, there’s a chance jaw pain or stiffness is related to injury, illness, or infection. Any trauma to teeth, jaws, or the head or neck could result in jaw pain and stiffness. Illnesses and infections like colds, sinus infections, or abscesses could also be to blame. In fact, these are some of the most common causes of unexplained jaw pain.
In many cases, this symptom is temporary and will disappear as your body heals. However, it’s always best to schedule an appointment to see your dentist, and possibly your doctor, to uncover the cause of your jaw pain or stiffness and seek treatment.