Types of Jaw Pain
TMJ is a complex disorder, and it can result in many different types of jaw pain, including:
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Bone pain
- Nerve pain
Muscle pain is the most common type of jaw pain people get from TMJ. This is because your muscles are not working harmoniously with the other components of your jaw, including your teeth and bones. Instead, the muscles are being asked to perform excessive work and may be forced to work against each other instead of working together. The result is a dull ache in the muscles that may increase after chewing a tough meal or talking a lot.
Joint pain can occur because of several causes. When the muscles are working hard to move your jaw into a position where it doesn’t want to move, your jaw joints can be painfully compressed or stretched. Other times, the cushioning disc in the jaw joint may become displaced. When this occurs, the force of the jaw is directed not on a tough disc of cartilage but on softer connective tissue, which can be painful. And since the connective tissue isn’t a very good cushion, the bones can begin to wear away, which can create pain in the joint—or dislodge bone spurs that will stab your soft tissues in the area.
Bone pain can occur in the joint, but it also occurs in the part of your jaw that holds your teeth. Excessive pressure on the teeth because of imbalanced bite force can push the teeth down into the bone, which may be felt either in the tooth as a toothache or in the bone as a bone ache.
Nerve pain occurs because of the many nerves that weave in and around your jaw system, including the bones and muscles of the jaw joint. When these parts of the joint are displaced, they can put pressure on or even pinch the nerves. This can be felt as many different types of pain, from a sharp, electric “shock” to a dull ache, or even an itch, tingling, or numbness.
Jaw Pain and Headaches
Many people with TMJ suffer both headaches and jaw pain because the two are closely related. When your muscles aren’t functioning easily or smoothly in the jaw, the effects of their dysfunction radiate outwards to the muscles they partner with.
Your jaw muscles work together with neck muscles to hold your head up. When jaw muscles are stressed, neck muscles can become stressed, too. This can lead to pressure on the occipital nerves, which run from your spine up the back of your skull. When these nerves are under pressure, you can experience migraines or occipital neuralgia—intense headaches in the back of the head.
Your jaw muscles also work with muscles in the head, and when those muscles are stressed, they can lead to tension headaches, which you might notice are linked to episodes of jaw clenching or grinding (bruxism).
And your jaw muscles interact with the trigeminal nerve in many places, which leads to numerous opportunities for painful pressure on this key nerve. When the trigeminal nerve is pressured, you might not feel pain at the point of pressure. Instead, it might trigger migraines.
If you are tired of TMJ symptoms and are looking for relief that doesn’t involve drugs or surgery, please contact our Savannah TMJ dentists today to learn more about jaw pain treatment in Savannah.