A Pain in the Jaw: TMJ Dysfunction

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is one of the most complex joints in the body. It is often referred to as the “jaw joint,” as it connects the lower jaw to the base of the skull. The functions of the TMJ are essential in our day-to-day lives. For some children (and adults), this joint can become damaged and overworked, causing jaw pain, facial pain and a multitude of inflammatory symptoms. Luckily, there are some changes that you can help your child make in order to relieve their symptoms.

What are the symptoms of Temporomandibular Dysfunction (TMD)?

As a parent, hearing your child complain of painful symptoms is frightening and unsettling. All you want to do is take away their pain and protect them from harm. Jaw pain can be due to several different conditions which require treatment as soon as possible. Without a treatment from a pediatric dentist, pain will most likely get worse. Not only do pediatric oral health conditions cause pain, but they often carry on through adulthood. Although symptoms of TMD tend to differ in severity depending on the case, some of the most common complaints of children suffering from TMD include the following:

  • Jaw pain
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Facial pain right in front of the ears
  • Jaw asymmetry
  • Uneven movements of the jaw
  • Swelling around the joint site
  • Popping or clicking sounds in the jaw
  • Difficulty opening and/or closing the mouth
  • Headaches

What causes TMD?

Several factors contribute to TMD, and most of them can be prevented. If your child has been experiencing jaw pain symptoms, it could be due to the following cause(s):

  • Anxiety and stress
  • Juvenile muscular conditions
  • Misaligned jaw (malocclusion)
  • Teeth grinding
  • Teeth clenching
  • Facial or oral trauma

A lot of the time, those suffering from TMD do not realize that they are clenching and/or grinding their teeth. Teeth grinding (bruxism) more commonly occurs at night during sleep. Teeth clenching can become a habit, and a dangerous habit at that. Clenching the jaw muscles can wear down the cartilage (cushion between the bones) causing bone to grind on bone as your child moves their jaw.

Treatment for TMD

Treatments vary but in the case of bruxism or clenching, a custom mouth guard should be worn at night to protect the teeth from further damage. Please note that the damage incurred by baby teeth often carries over into your child’s adult teeth and will negatively impact their oral health. Other treatment options include the following:

  • Mouth guards (as previously mentioned) for protection of the teeth and jaw muscles
  • Heat and cold therapies such as ice packs and warm compresses
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers for temporary relief
  • Range-of-motion jaw exercises
  • Injections to loosen tense muscles
  • Surgery

Advanced Children’s Dentistry provides a comprehensive and educational experience for both parent and child. We are proud to provide care for all areas of Long Island including Mineola, Westbury, Levittown, Bethpage, Great Neck, Rockville Centre, Manhasset, Brookville, Farmingdale as well as Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. Schedule your child’s dental appointment for a pediatric dentist today for jaw pain relief as soon as possible at 516-758-KIDS.

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