Jaw pain and jaw-related problems present regularly at my Chiropractic office, and for a whole array of reasons. The purpose of this article is highlighting the most common presentations and how Chiropractic can help.
This is Dr. Andrew Arnold, Chiropractor at Cranbourne Family Chiropractic and Wellness Ctr.
First let’s talk about the key joint of the jaw, the TMJ or Temporomandibular joint.
This is located just in front of your ear. If you put your finger here then open and close you should be able to feel the space, and usually it’s pretty sore to touch.
This joint is made of 3 cranial or skull bones and so can refer pain all over.
There’s also a small disc not dissimilar to those in your spine that helps cushion the joint and assist motion.
Now I’m sure you’ve had jaw pain from time to time, i.e. pain eating or chewing, associated headaches, teeth ache, neck pain etc.
It’s not fun but the good news is we can help!
Now let’s look at the symptoms:
- Pain or tenderness of your jaw
- Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints
- Aching pain in and around your ear
- Difficulty chewing or pain while chewing
- Aching facial pain
- Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth
- Clicking sound or grating sensation when you open your mouth or chew.
What about Causes?
Dr. Andrew Arnold says, ‘In practice, the most common cause is teeth grinding/clenching, and this is usually due to stress.’
Your dentist maybe the first practitioner to highlight this to you.
Other causes maybe what we call ‘cranial dysfunction’ where your cranial bones don’t articulate with one another properly.
Neck strain can also lead to TMJ problems by virtue of the fact that many neck muscles also assist jaw movement.
Less common is trauma. I recently had a patient who is a farrier and was kicked in the face by a horse ending up with a plated jaw.
So, let’s move to what can help.
As a Chiropractor, we need to assess your spine. X-rays are useful to see the structural integrity however; good old palpation is the best approach. The Chiropractor will feel for joint motion and this includes your jaw and associated muscles.
Oftentimes one side is affected only causing an asymmetrical bite, much like a cow chewing grass.
The tension of muscles and ligaments eventually causes referral to the head, neck and even the teeth. I once have someone convinced they had a tooth abscess having the dentist rigorously check them over only to find it was their jaw mimicking the symptoms and signs.
When to see a Chiropractor
If you have persistent pain or tenderness in your jaw, or if you can’t open or close your jaw completely a Chiropractor can help.
Oral splints or mouth guards (occlusal appliances). Your Chiropractor may recommend you consult a dentist and look to a splint. The idea is this relaxes the jaw muscles overnight relieving spasm and allowing the jaw to work properly thru-out the day.
Surgical or other procedures
In extreme cases…
- Arthrocentesis is recommended, a minimally invasive procedure that involves the insertion of small needles into the joint so that fluid can be irrigated through the joint to remove debris.
- Injections, i.e. cortisone to relieve inflammation.
- Modified condylotomy, surgery on the mandible or jaw bone.
In conclusion. If you have been suffering jaw pain, are tired of taking anti-inflammatories, your GP is recommending more invasive treatment it might be time to consult your local Chiropractor.
About the Author:
Dr. Andrew Arnold is a Chiropractor and the Million Dollar Wellness Mentor.
Founder: 12 Keys Wellness Practice Workshop, Cranbourne Family Chiropractic and Wellness Centreand Million Dollar Wellness
Andrew is married to Dr. Linda Wilson, the Stress Specialist and has two children, Isaac and Bella. He lives in Melbourne, Australia.