Okay, so you were horsing around with the kids, inadvertently whacked your chin on the floor, and now you’re experiencing some jaw pain. What should you do? First and foremost, contact your dentist without delay. He/she will need to do a proper examination to access any possible damage. Depending on the extent of your injury, it may be necessary for you to see an oral and maxillofacial surgeon (A dentist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders and diseases of the jaws), to make a more definitive diagnosis, which will allow for a proper treatment plan. If your symptoms persist, seek treatment right away to avoid irreversible damage. It’s not possible to determine the extent of your injury without an examination, but the most likely possibilities for jaw pain include…

Displaced Tooth/Teeth 

Loose or displaced teeth can cause jaw pain.

Traumatized or Injured Jaw Joint (TMJ – temporo-mandibular joint)

This trauma will cause swelling in the joint space, and the ball of the joint – known as the “condyle” – will not fully seat into the joint space. If this is the case, it is likely that your back teeth on that side will not touch. Over time, about one week, the swelling should subside, and the teeth will fit together normally.

Minor Lower Jaw Fracture

The most common is a “sub-condylar” fracture (Below the head of the joint) which will persist in symptoms and are usually more severe than just bruising described above.

Dislocated Joint

Where the condyle, or joint head, has been moved out of the joint space.

Next Steps

Due to the presence of inflammation from any of the above injuries, the muscles on either side of the jaw can lock the jaw into position, prohibiting further movement and additional damage. This muscle spasm acts like “nature’s splint” to immobilize the jaw.

Your dental care professional will most likely perform a physical examination to determine the exact cause of your jaw pain along with an x-ray to reveal the extent of the injury. The x-ray will show whether the injury is to the soft tissue or bone areas of the jaw. Your treatment plan will be prescribed based on what the results show.

Minimally, anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant medication can prove helpful with pain and swelling. Any damage to your teeth can be treated by your dentist. If the jaw is dislocated, gentle manipulation will be required to move it back into the correct position. Additional supportive therapy will also be needed post-appointment.

If you have a minor fracture, which may involve either the jaw joint or the body of the jaw itself, the treatment generally is to reposition the broken parts and immobilize them so they can heal.

Treatment may be as minimal as joining the upper and lower teeth together (external fixation) for several weeks to immobilize the jaw to let it heal; or potentially a full surgical treatment with “internal fixation” of the jawbone itself, to accomplish the same result. Most procedures are performed under conscious sedation (Twilight sleep), or full general anesthesia. Once assessed, your dental care professional can determine the best treatment option for your injury.

Any type of jaw pain indicates the need for dental care. If you are experiencing jaw pain, don’t delay in contacting your dentist to schedule an examination. Immediate diagnosis and treatment is your best bet against long term, irreversible damage to your oral health.

If you experience jaw pain, don’t hesitate to contact your dental care professional to get examined!

Contact Us (859-689-1105) For More Information or to Make an Appointment!

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About Tri-State Family Dentistry

Tri-State Family Dentistry is dedicated to providing the highest quality dental care possible. Being privately owned since 2009, we don’t experience the corporate pressure that other dental practices have to hit certain revenue numbers. You will never be ‘sold’ dentistry at Tri-State Family Dentistry. After we explain your treatment options, you can make your own decisions.