Many individuals suffer from headaches, neck aches, pain in or around the ear, tenderness of the jaw muscles, clicking of the jaw or dull, aching facial pain that are the result of temporomandibular disorders. TMJ/TMD disorders can often become chronic and debilitating.
The cause of this disorder can be singular but more commonly involves a combination of numerous factors: behavioral, biologic, environmental, emotional, social and cognitive. Only very infrequently is the problem due to a dental malocclusion where the upper and lower teeth are misaligned.
Jaw-irritating habits, like clenching the teeth or jaw, tooth grinding at night, biting the lips or fingernails or chewing gum, can make the problem worse or longer lasting. Psychological factors also often play a role, especially stress, anxiety and depression.
Jaw Pain Related to Heart Attacks
Classic heart attack symptoms are crushing chest pain with pain radiating down one arm. However, women don’t always experience the same symptoms as men. Pain in one or more arms, back, neck or jaw is more common in women than in men. This jaw pain can come and go and develop gradually or suddenly. Oftentimes it will become worse upon physical excursion.
For further information on the warning signs of heart attack and stroke click this link for the American Heart Association.
Steven M. Levy, DMD and William Kotkin, DDS believe in taking a holistic approach and starts with a thorough history and assessment of the problem before choosing a therapy. Most of the needed information can be gotten just from talking to a patient about their habits and present life-style. This is followed by a physical examination to check for signs like muscle tenderness and pain in the jaw, limited jaw opening and noises.
Individuals with TMJ/TMD often have histories of chronic back, shoulder or neck pain. This may be related to a history of trauma due to an auto accident or fall.
Possible treatment may involve a night guard (mouth guard), resting of the jaw, soft foods, stress management, relaxation techniques, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication and counseling. It has been my experience that the source of pain in a vast majority of cases is musculoskeletal in origin. Frequently, a combination of one or more of the above therapies along with referral to a physical therapist brings lasting relief.
Only after simple, reversible therapies have been tried should any expensive or irreversible treatment be considered. Surgery is the treatment of last resort.
Click here to learn more about TMJ/TMD from the American Dental Association including short videos on bruxism (grinding) and facial pain. A search on their site will reveal much useful information on this and other topics in dentistry.
If you are suffering from TMJ/TMD pain do not let it undermine your daily life. Please give Drs. Levy and Kotkin a call, at 516-378-8600. He will see you that day and have you on the road to comfort!