Jaw Pain During or After Dental Care Visits

Laying back in a dentist’s chair for 30 minutes to an hour with your mouth open isn’t exactly a natural position for the human body. When your appointment is over, your lips may feel dry and your jaw or neck a bit stiff. This is all considered normal, but what if your jaw pain is disruptive or lingers for days after a visit? 

Here’s how to tell the difference between normal soreness and abnormal jaw pain that a dentist should evaluate.

When is jaw pain normal and when is it a sign of trouble?

Generally speaking, jaw pain is not considered normal, especially when it’s a daily occurrence. 

Minor, temporary jaw pain immediately following a dental appointment is one of the very few times in which soreness or tenderness isn’t alarming and may even be expected following a lengthy treatment. However, if your jaw pain post-dental appointment isn’t gone by the next day, or you feel significant pain around your jaw and the TMJ joint, you should inform your dentist immediately. 

A few other situations that warrant a dentist’s evaluation include:

  • Frequent jaw pain or soreness that occurs daily or weekly without a specific cause.
  • Jaw pain coupled with tooth pain, jaw and facial swelling, and dizziness.
  • Feeling a clicking, popping, or grinding sensation in the jaw joint when opening your mouth.
  • Being unable to completely open your mouth without pain or tightness.
  • Prolonged soreness or sensitivity that stops you from visiting your dentist because of anticipated pain afterward.

Frequent jaw pain and stiffness, especially around the TMJ, could indicate that you have a TMJ disorder.

What is a TMJ disorder, and what are the symptoms?

The jaw’s TMJ, or temporomandibular joint, is complex and acts like a hinge between your jawbone and your skull. When an injury or an anatomical problem causes chronic pain around the TMJ and the surrounding muscles or ligaments, a TMJ disorder (TMJD) develops.

Aside from chronic jaw pain and tenderness, TMJDs can also cause:

  • Bruxism (teeth grinding) and related problems, like worn-down teeth.
  • Headaches, earaches and tinnitus, or migraines.
  • Tension and discomfort in the back and shoulders.
  • Audible or physical popping or locking in the jaw joint when eating.
  • Changed bite alignment or facial appearance (i.e. your jaw looks like it’s positioned more to one side than the other).

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, schedule a consultation with your dentist to find out if you have a TMJD. Your dentist will examine your bite alignment, check your teeth for abnormal wear, and perform a physical examination around your jaw and face to pinpoint where the pain is coming from. X-rays are another important step in diagnosing a TMJ disorder.

In rare cases, your dentist may need to see an MRI of your jaw, in which case you’ll be referred to an appropriate local facility for these images. 

How can a dentist help me relieve my jaw pain or TMJD?

Most cases of TMJD can be diagnosed and treated or managed by your dentist at Ada Smile Place. There are a few treatment options that can effectively relieve your jaw pain.

Night Guards or Splints

Night guards are special oral appliances that resemble mouthguards. They are worn at night to keep the jaw in the proper alignment and to stop bruxism and clenching. A splint is very similar and has the same purpose, but is designed to be worn during the day.

Corrective Dentistry

Restorative dentistry and oral surgery can be used to relieve TMJ pain caused by a bite misalignment or similar dental issues. Your dentist may replace missing teeth with implants, reshape or protect broken teeth with dental crowns, or recommend orthodontic care to shift teeth into a better balance.

Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy

Orofacial myofunctional therapy is a unique treatment option that can yield excellent results in relieving jaw pain. You can think of it as physical therapy for your mouth, jaw, and neck. By practicing a customized set of different exercises daily, you’ll be able to regain normal function of the muscles and ligaments around your TMJ joint.

In addition to the treatment options we provide, Ada Smile Place collaborates with speech therapists, chiropractors, and orthodontist specialists to ensure patients fully recover and can live pain-free.

Book a consultation for your jaw pain today.

If you’re experiencing jaw pain, TMJD symptoms, or prolonged discomfort following a dental appointment, we can help. Ada Smile Place is dedicated to helping individuals and families achieve optimal oral health by providing superior dental care in Ada, OK. Schedule a visit today by calling our office or using this online booking portal.