Dental Arts of Wyomissing Blog
Posts for: September, 2014
You’ve suddenly noticed a significant amount of pain radiating from your jaw, so severe you can barely bring your teeth together.
First things first: with this level of pain you should see us as soon as possible. There are a number of possible causes, but only a thorough examination will give us the correct diagnosis and answers we need to develop a plan to treat the cause and alleviate the pain.
With that said, here are a few possible causes for that severe jaw pain.
Injured or diseased teeth. Although the pain you feel seems to come from the jaw in general, the true source may be an individual tooth that’s been traumatized or infected. Because of the interconnectivity of nerves throughout the oral structure, the pain could be radiating from the teeth to the jaws. By effectively treating the affected tooth, we may in turn reduce the jaw pain.
Trauma around the joint. If you’ve taken a physical blow to the area around the jaw joint, the resulting swelling in the joint space is keeping the head of the jaw joint (the “condyle”) from seating in the space properly. You may also notice the upper and lower teeth in the back of your jaw won’t touch. As the swelling from the injury subsides (aided by anti-inflammatory drugs that also reduce pain), the joint should eventually return to its normal position.
Jaw fracture. The most common jaw fracture occurs in the area just below the condyle. The pain is usually much more severe than you might experience with indirect trauma. Fractures are normally treated by repositioning the broken bone and immobilizing the area to allow healing.
Joint dislocation. The injury you’ve sustained may have actually moved the condyle out of the joint space. If this is the case careful manipulation may be needed to reseat the condyle back into place, along with anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling.
TMJ or TMD. Muscle spasms can cause significant pain with similar symptoms, including limiting jaw movement. Only an examination with x-rays (to determine if it’s a soft tissue or bone-related injury) can narrow down the possibilities to the true cause. The sooner we make that determination and begin treatment the better you’ll feel — and the less likely the injury will result in irreversible damage.
If you would like more information on the causes of jaw pain, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Jaw Pain — What’s the Cause.”
By the time you reach adulthood, roughly 100 trillion microscopic organisms will have taken up residence in and on your body, outnumbering your own cells 10 to 1. Most are bacteria, a domain of the animal kingdom considered synonymous with disease. But only a few of the thousands of bacterial species cause us harm; the rest are either benign or actually beneficial to our health, including in our mouths.
Dentistry pioneered much of our knowledge about bacteria, developing processes used to identify, classify and understand those species inhabiting our mouths. Science as a whole is catching up with the Human Microbiome Project (HMP) begun in 2007. Through HMP, researchers have catalogued and begun to study more than 10,000 bacterial species.
We’re finding that our bodies develop a symbiotic relationship with many of these creatures invisible to the naked eye. During our infancy the bacteria we ingest from birth and breast feeding begin to interact with our body’s immune system, “teaching” it to refrain from attacking friendly organisms that contribute to health and searching and destroying enemy species that cause disease.
We’re also learning that an imbalance with our individual population of bacteria has links with disease. Our digestive system is a prime example: bacteria related to obesity can overpopulate our digestive tract, while malnutrition can create an environment that produces too many bacteria that inhibit digestion of vitamins and other nutrients.
The same microbial imbalance can occur in the mouth. For example, our typical Western diet encourages the growth of bacteria most associated with tooth decay (Streptococcus mutans). We’re also finding that tobacco smoking creates a mouth environment more conducive to the bacteria that cause gum disease. Just by quitting smoking you can alter that environment to encourage growth of health-promoting bacteria and inhibit growth of malevolent species.
The desired outcome of this knowledge is to develop treatments that target disease-causing bacteria without harming those beneficial to us (as often occurs with traditional antibiotics). In dentistry, such possibilities could help stop the spread of tooth decay, gum disease or similar bacterial infections, while fostering a healthier oral environment that prevents disease and protects health.