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Can TMJ cause toothaches?

A toothache is always an unpleasant surprise, and it’s hard to just get through the day when you are suffering with one. Pain in your teeth might involve tooth decay, but there are a number of other issues that might come into play – including TMJ (or TMD). TMJ is quite common, and may affect up to 1 million Canadians.

What is TMJ?
Temporomandibular joint and muscle (TMJ) disorders can cause pain in the jaw and the face. Medicine is still unsure what exactly causes problems with TMJ, which is the are where the jaw connects with the rest of the skull.

It is generally the muscles that supports the joint that seems to cause the pain, which can also involve headaches – even migraines. Those muscles are located underneath the jaw, radiating into the cheeks and the side of the skull. Essentially, when the muscles clench too tightly, it can cause a range of problems.

How do I know?
Is it your tooth, or could it be TMJ? Here are some clues that point to TMJ rather than tooth decay.
• The pain seems to radiate from the jaw, rather than from the tooth;
• If the joint itself is tender or sore, even when not in use, it points to TMJ disorder.
• If the toothache is accompanied by other discomfort, including a stiff jaw, a clicking or grating sound when the jaw is used, or pain when you open or close your mouth.
• If the pain is a dull ache that persists over time, rather than a sharp, sudden pain, it can point to TMJ.

Treatment
Each case is different, and treatment will be customized to a patient’s individual situation. There are a number of options.

• The good news is, most cases of TMJ are temporary, and will resolve on their own, or with over the counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
• A mouth splint or bite guard can help in some cases to help prevent tooth grinding, and to prevent the jaw from clenching.
• If the cause of TMJ is a misalignment of the jaw, corrective surgery can eliminate the problem.

There are also some self care measures that can help.

• Avoid chewing gum, as the constant motion seems to cause TMJ in some people;
• Massage your jaw muscles gently, and try to relax them;
• Stretch your neck and shoulders often.
• Try to eat soft rather than hard foods while you are recuperating, to give your jaw a rest;
• A cold compress held on your cheek can help alleviate the pain.

Looking for advice on a sore tooth, or any aspect of your dental or oral health? You’ll find the answer at Dr. Robert Axelrad’s Dental Office in Brampton, ON.

If you’re looking for a well-regarded and highly skilled dentist in the Brampton area, make an appointment with Dr. Robert Axelrad by calling (905)-791-3867. Visit our website to learn more about our dental services.

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