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Jaw pain can be attributed to many factors, including trauma resulting from direct contact to the face, jaw or neck; grinding or clenching due to stress or habit; a malocclusion resulting in poor oral habits; or TMJ (which stands for temporomandibular joint), which is a jaw disorder involving the joints located in front of the ears.

There are so many things to consider when there is discomfort in this area. Many patients assume that when they hear a click in the jaw when they chew that they are suffering from TMJ. But there are so many more things to consider.

If the patient has a malocclusion, which describes a condition where the upper teeth do not properly align with the bottom teeth, this can lead to jaw discomfort. When teeth do not meet correctly, the result is teeth that slide instead of connect when speaking, chewing, and relaxing. Quite often, patients will find themselves clenching their teeth together creating unnecessary pressure on the jaws. [pullquote]Many patients assume that when they hear a click in the jaw when they chew that they are suffering from TMJ. But there are so many more things to consider.[/pullquote]

What action can be taken to prevent TMJ? Patients that realize they are dealing with a malocclusion can discuss options with their dentist geared toward prevention or treatment, depending on their situation.

One option is to be fitted with a mouth guard. A mouth guard is fabricated for either the upper or lower teeth to be worn during the night in an effort to prevent clenching and grinding. Grinding or clenching usually starts subconsciously during sleep. But this act can advance until the patient habitually grinds and clenches during waking hours as well.

By wearing the night guard, the patient will hopefully train the teeth and jaw to relax. If the night guard does not resolve the problem, the malocclusion may be too extensive, so the patient may be advised to seek corrective treatment to prevent further damage.

If there has been a traumatic event, the patient may be faced with a dislocated jaw, broken jaw bones or teeth that have been broken or lost. If this condition has occurred, a consultation with the dentist to determine the extent of damage and the proper course of action is appropriate.

But for most patients that experience occasional jaw discomfort or a jaw that “locks up,” the problem may be temporary so don’t jump to a conclusion that you’re dealing with a serious issue without a proper diagnosis.

If you are experiencing jaw pain, contact our experienced dental team today to find out more about your options.