Jaw Pain: How To Relieve It?
The jaw is a complex anatomical structure whose various components (bones, nerves, ligaments) are linked to the sinuses, orbits, skull bones and ears. When jaw pain occurs, its cause can be bony, articular, muscular or nervous. But, in all cases, solutions exist to relieve this problem.
Why does the jaw lock?
There are several causes that can lead to jaw lock.
This problem can occur in cases of shock and trauma, but also due to:
- bruxism, i.e. grinding the teeth at night
- too frequent chewing, especially in the context of smoking cessation if one compensates for the lack of cigarettes with chewing gum or nicotine gum
- misalignment of the teeth
- the aftermath of a tooth extraction: if the dental surgeon leaves a gap at the site of the extracted tooth, this can shift the joint
- another dental problem such as a cavity, an infiltrated dental bandage, a wisdom tooth or a cyst.
What are the symptoms?
A jaw lock results in muscular and/or joint pain.
Most commonly, the patient suffers from joint stiffness and difficulty chewing, as well as pain in the jaw that may extend to the neck, ears, and temples.
The blockage may also manifest itself in other symptoms such as:
- cracking sounds
- difficulty opening the mouth
- pain when yawning
- the sensation of having your teeth misaligned when your mouth is closed.
Jaw locks can also be associated with cervical tension and back pain but this is not systematic.
How to relieve the pain?
A few common sense tips can help you relieve the pain of a locked jaw. Focus on soft foods and avoid extreme mouth opening when yawning.
If you practice singing or your job involves frequent speaking, such as teaching, for example, avoid clenching your jaw too tightly and consider using ice to numb the pain.
Conversely, you can also use heat in the form of hot compresses to relax sore muscles. If you have muscle pain, taking a muscle relaxant or anti-inflammatory medication can also provide relief.
For long-term relief, you'll need to see a specialist to treat your dental problems, bruxism or osteoarthritis, as appropriate.
To note: don't panic if your jaw locks up when you close. On the other hand, in case of jaw lock open mouth, you should go to the emergency room without delay so that a doctor can put your jaw back in line.
What does the treatment consist of?
To restore proper jaw balance, rehabilitation sessions with a physical therapist or osteopath specializing in facial disorders are recommended.
If the cause of your blockage is stress-related, you can also:
- wear a mouthpiece at night to prevent bruxism
- practice breathing exercises such as cardiac coherence
- do some gentle stretching of the jaw to relax it.
A simple cardiac coherence exercise is to breathe for 5 seconds then exhale for 5 seconds for 5 minutes three times a day. Free mobile apps can help you easily perform this exercise.
As for gently stretching this area, it involves gently opening and closing the jaw by massaging the muscles around the joint. Gently open your mouth on the inhale and close it on the exhale by guiding your jaw with your hands.
Caution: this stretch should be performed gently for no more than 3 minutes.