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By Dr. Saleh Al-Daghreer

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Topics: Orthodontics

If you’re experiencing pain in your jaw, you may not immediately think it’s related to your teeth. But as many dentists will tell you, pain in your jaw can be caused by a variety of different circumstances happening to your teeth.

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The jaw may seem simple, but there is a lot of different parts at play, all of which must deal with pressure on a regular basis (when you eat food, for example, your jaw exerts a lot of pressure to rip, chew, and swallow food).

If you are experiencing persistent or consistent pain in your jaw, you should absolutely seek out the advice of a medical professional. Talk to your family doctor, and odds are he or she will recommend you speak to a dentist, too. Don’t suffer through needless pain. By talking with your dentist, you can determine what’s wrong, and how to fix it.

Here are five potential causes of jaw pain you should seek out your dentist to help solve.


1. Untreated Cavity

If you’ve been avoiding your dentist and eating a lot of sugary snacks, you’re a prime candidate for a cavity. As the plaque builds up on your teeth, it will eat away at your enamel. But if left untreated long enough that the bacteria breaks through into the dentin, the layer beneath enamel, that’s when you’ll start to feel pain radiating around your jaw.

The longer you leave a cavity untreated, the worse it can get, so if you’re feeling jaw pain consider a dental check-up right away.


2. Grinding Your Teeth

Some people, when they sleep, grind their teeth. This can cause fracturing, loosening, or even the loss of teeth. Over time, chronic grinding can wear your teeth down, cause or worsen TMJ, and even cause disruptions in your jaw itself.

If you suspect grinding, your dentist can fit you with a mouth guard to wear while you sleep that will protect your teeth and alleviate the pain.


3. Bad Bite

When you eat, you want all your teeth to line up. For some people, however, only a few teeth match up. This may mean an overbite or an underbite; either way, it can cause strain on parts of your mouth that eventually becomes pain in your jaw, joints, and muscles.

Sometimes braces are needed to correct a bad bite, though in extreme cases surgery may be required.


4. Impacted Wisdom Tooth

Wisdom teeth are the big teeth in the back of your mouth. Not everyone gets them, and many people need them to be removed. When there’s not enough space for a wisdom tooth to come in properly, they may become trapped (i.e. impacted). The tooth will still try to punch through, but being unable, that force will translate into other parts of your mouth, causing pain and potentially long-lasting problems.

If impacted, your dentist will recommend removing your wisdom teeth.


5. TMJ/TMD Disorder

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge that allows you to move your mouth up and down; it’s the part that connects to the rest of the skull. Like any joint, they can act up at times, and if your jaw is misaligned can cause a lot of pain. This may manifest in a variety of ways, like stiffness or in extreme cases locked jaw.

There are a variety of treatments, including orthodontics, that depend on what kind of TMJ disorder you’re suffering from. Ask your orthodontist what he or she recommends.

Don’t sit around on jaw pain. Maybe you only stretched a muscle, and it will heal fine on its own, but there are a plethora of other conditions it might be the first symptom of. Set an appointment with your dentist or orthodontist if you’re experiencing any kind of jaw pain, and get the help you require to ensure the condition, and the jaw pain, don’t get any worse.


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Dr. Saleh Al-Daghreer

Dr. Saleh Al-Daghreer, BDS, PhD, FRCD (C), an Edmonton Orthodontist who is a registered specialist and a fellow of the Canadian Royal College of Dentists of Canada in the specialty of orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics. He received his undergraduate degree in Dentistry in 2003 and his PhD in Orthodontics in 2012 from the University of Alberta. He founded City Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry to provide care in the City of Edmonton.

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