Acute Jaw Pain: What Causes It and How Do We Treat It?

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Chronic or intense jaw pain can be debilitating, making it difficult to speak or eat properly. When the pain is severe enough, it can even disrupt your sleep or limit your ability to function normally in your everyday life.

Jaw pain can include jaw tenderness, pain when you bite down, pain in or around your ears, and headaches. There are many possible causes of jaw pain, so it can be challenging to diagnose what is causing it.

Read on to learn some of the common causes of acute jaw pain and how we treat it here at Eggert Family Dentistry using a device called the Aqualizer®.

Common Causes of Jaw Pain

While over-the-counter painkillers and anti-inflammatories can temporarily reduce jaw pain, to properly treat it you need to determine the root cause.

There are several conditions that can contribute to severe jaw pain, some of which are related to dental health, but not all. It’s important to consult both Dr. Eggert and your physician to diagnose the cause of your jaw pain. They will do a thorough exam, which may include dental X-rays, CT scans, or blood work.

The most common causes of jaw pain include:

Decayed or Abscessed Teeth

Pain from tooth decay or a tooth abscess can radiate to the jaw. Treatment may include fillings, crowns, a root canal, or extraction, depending on the severity of the problem.

Gum Infection

A gum infection is usually caused by bacteria that multiplies due to poor oral hygiene. The most effective initial treatment is a deep cleaning called scaling and root planing. Occasionally adding localized antibiotics can also improve the infection. Improved oral hygiene can help manage the gum disease caused by a gum infection and hopefully prevent future acute incidents.

Cluster Headaches or Migraines

A migraine typically presents as a throbbing headache on one side of the head, while a cluster headache usually starts as pain behind or around one of the eyes. Both can also send pain to the jaw. There are also times when overuse of the jaw muscles or jaw joint can send pain signals that manifest as cluster headaches or migraines.

Sinus or Ear Infections

Infections of the sinuses or ear canals can also cause pain to radiate to the jaw. When sinuses or ears become infected, often an excess of mucus puts pressure on the jaw joint, causing pain.

Heart Attack or Angina

Jaw pain can sometimes accompany a heart attack or angina. During a heart attack, pain can radiate to the arms, back, neck, or jaw. Women are especially likely to experience jaw pain on the left side when having a heart attack.

If you experience any of the following symptoms along with your jaw pain (even if you don’t have chest pain) you should immediately call 911:

  • Chest discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Feeling faint

Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia is a condition commonly caused by compression of the trigeminal nerve—a large, three-part cranial nerve that provides sensation to a large portion of the face, including the upper and lower jaws. This condition causes brief but excruciating jaw and facial pain on one side of the face. It can feel like shooting, stabbing, or electrical pain, and can mimic dental pain. Treatment for trigeminal neuralgia typically involves medication or surgery.

TMJ or TMD

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction, or Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD) are the most common causes of jaw pain. The temporomandibular joints are the hinge joints on each side of your jaw. Pain can originate in either the joints themselves or the muscles surrounding the joints. This condition can be difficult to treat because there are multiple potential causes, including: muscle pain, jaw joint injury, overstimulation of the jaw joint, a displaced disc, or arthritis of the protective disc that cushions the jaw joint.

Damage to the jaw joint or the muscles that control your jaw movement can be caused by several factors, including:

  • Grinding your teeth
  • Involuntarily clenching your jaw due to stress or anxiety
  • Jaw joint trauma, such as a sports injury or other facial injury
  • Upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS) and lack of reparative sleep

TMJ or TMD muscle tension can often be treated with muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory drugs, or a custom fitted dental orthotic (similar in concept and shape to a mouth guard). Joint dysfunction is generally treated with anti-inflammatories and sometimes arthroscopic surgery.

Bruxism

A person with Bruxism grinds or clenches their teeth, either while sleeping or even throughout the day—and in most cases, they don’t realize they’re doing it. Bruxism is generally caused by stress, and it can, in turn, cause jaw pain. Bruxism can often be treated using a custom fitted dental orthotic—a splint typically worn at night, but sometimes with some day use if needed.

Treating Acute Jaw Pain with the Aqualizer®

At Eggert Family Dentistry, Dr. Elizabeth and Dr. Jeff use a device called the Aqualizer® to treat acute jaw pain.

The Aqualizer® is a self-adjusting dental splint used to diagnose how much a patient’s dental bite contributes to their jaw or facial pain. The extent that it helps relieve this pain indicates whether dental treatment will be an effective solution.

The Aqualizer® works by allowing the jaw muscles to automatically reposition the jaw to where it naturally works best. It allows the body to correct bite distortions to restore optimal function and balance. Biting down on the Aqualizer® causes the fluid contained in the device to distribute the bite force evenly across the bite, relieving jaw pressure and pain.

This device is meant to be used short-term and is helpful for acute jaw pain related to TMJ or Bruxism. In addition to treating jaw pain, it can also bring relief to chronic neck, shoulder, and migraine pain. It can be very helpful in narrowing in on a diagnosis for your problem.

Are You Suffering with Acute Jaw Pain? Schedule a Visit Today

If you are experiencing jaw pain, Dr. Elizabeth and Dr. Jeff are here to help. Schedule an exam today to determine the cause of your jaw pain and to discuss your treatment options, including whether an Aqualizer® may be right for you. To schedule an appointment, call our office at 651-482-8412.

List Join

What’s the Difference Between TMD and TMJ?

By Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Our upper and lower jaw bones help our bodies perform many important functions. They help us speak, chew, and yawn. Consequently, our quality of life is directly impacted when our jaw is even slightly irritated or inflamed. When it comes to jaw disorders, there is often confusion between the terms TMJ and TMD. This post will help you decipher between these two terms.

What is TMJ?

TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint itself, a joint that acts like a sliding hinge, connecting your jawbone to your skull. The lower jawbone (mandible) has two condyles that fit at the base of the skull. This joint can be found on both sides of your head, in front of each ear. The TMJ allows the jaw to open and close so you can speak, chew, and yawn. While many people claim to suffer from TMJ, this term actually refers to the joint as opposed to the joint disorder.

What is TMD?

TMD on the other hand, stands for temporomandibular disorder, a disorder of the temporomandibular joint. This joint is easily irritated by stress, jaw clenching, teeth grinding, and arthritis and is susceptible to misalignment, dislocation, or permanent changes as a result of crooked teeth or blunt trauma. Depending on the cause, discomfort can range from mild to severe. However, just because you’re not experiencing severe pain in your jaw doesn’t mean you should just “ride it out.” Ignoring even mild jaw discomfort can result in deterioration of the TMJ.

In our next post, we will cover the signs and symptoms of TMD and discuss how TMJ disorders are diagnosed. Stay tuned!

If you have any questions about TMD/TMJ or would like to schedule a recare visit with us, you can call our office today at 651.482.8412. Dr. Elizabeth, Dr. Jeff and our amazing team at Eggert Family Dentistry are here and ready to address all of your dental concerns and needs with our vast experience, the latest technology and all of the comforts to make each of your visits a great experience!

Reasons We Might Refer You to or Collaborate with an ENT

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

There are certain situations at Eggert Family Dentistry when we need to collaborate with other physicians to provide the best possible care for our patients. Especially as we have worked to integrate more airway into our practice, many of you have been asked to seek out care with a board-certified ENT for a more integrated approach to dentistry.

In this article, we will provide information about how certain medical conditions may be linked to your airway and therefore situations where it may be best to collaborate with an ENT. We will also launch into more specific information about some of these conditions below.

  • Sleep – if you have trouble snoring, falling asleep, staying asleep, trouble with restless sleep, you wake up feeling unrefreshed, or issues with nighttime urination, these can all be linked to airway issues.
  • Other Health Conditions – ADHD, allergies, anxiety, birth defects, cardiovascular disease, chronic head and neck pain, chronic pain, daytime fatigue, depression, digestive issues, emotional problems, frequent colds, sinus problems, sore throats, or tonsillitis, grinding or clenching of teeth, headaches, high blood pressure, jaw locking, large tonsils or adenoids, memory loss, mouth breathing, neck aches, obesity, pain or clicking in jaw joint, previous orthodontics, PTSD, speech problems, sucking habits, tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy, or type II diabetes can all be linked to airway issues.
  • Dental Observations – there are many dental conditions that can be linked to poor airway flow as well such as crowded teeth, deep overbite, forward head position, head tilted back, mouth breathing, narrow dental arches, recessive lower jaw, scalloped tongue, tongue thrust, tongue tie or tooth wear.

Snoring and sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can lead to several other serious medical conditions. In cases where our patient is struggling with sleep apnea, Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff can often link what they see with the teeth, jaw, and muscles (like the tongue) to aid in determining the cause. Does our patient have inadequate space for the tongue based on the size of the jaw? Is the root of their condition the size or shape of their soft palate? How does the alignment of the teeth play in? Once this is determined, the best course of treatment is pursued. It is often helpful both during the diagnostic phase as well as during the treatment phase to collaborate with an ENT. This allows us to look at the situation from all facets and choose the best course of treatment.

Beyond sleep apnea itself, there are other sleep disordered breathing diagnoses or simply disordered breathing at all times, that can be detrimental to overall health. ENTs or other medical professionals can often help us navigate through treatment options.

Enlarged tonsils and adenoids

Enlarged tonsils and adenoids in children can cause facial and jaw deformities as a child grows. When Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff notice enlarged tonsils or adenoids and determine that the enlargement is not simply due to a virus, we will often refer our patient to an ENT for a consult.

Sinus problems

If a patient comes into our office with jaw pain, Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff evaluate many things, including the patient’s teeth and jaw. Because sinus problems can be a contributing factor to teeth and jaw discomfort, if their examination is inconclusive, Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff will refer our patient to an ENT for further evaluation.

In some cases, mucus can build up in the sinus cavity, causing sinusitis and leading to halitosis (bad breath). If halitosis is present (often in combination with jaw discomfort), this is another situation where Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff will most likely refer our patient to an ENT.

TMJ disorder

Another common cause of jaw pain is a disorder of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). At Eggert Family Dentistry, we most commonly treat TMD by providing our patient with a splint or night guard. In severe cases, full-mouth reconstruction may be necessary. However, if we are unable to make a dental determination for the jaw pain, we can refer our patient to an ENT for a CT scan or an MRI to rule out bone and joint issues.

At Eggert Family Dentistry, we go above and beyond to make sure each one of our patients receives superior care. This often means referring our patient to or collaborating with a board-certified ENT for further investigation. If you’d like to schedule an appointment with us, give us a call at 651.482.8412!

 

Occlusal Equilibration: Is it Right for You?

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

An improper bite – often the result of a misaligned upper and lower jaw – can lead to pain, joint problems and accelerated wear on the teeth. Fortunately, you don’t have to live with this condition. At Eggert Family Dentistry, Dr. Elizabeth and Dr. Jeff specialize in occlusal equilibration, a procedure that helps restore correct mouth structure and alleviates the irritating and painful symptoms associated with misaligned jaws.

What is occlusal equilibration?

Occlusal equilibration is the process of adjusting the biting surfaces of teeth in order to achieve the proper bite and the proper positioning of the jaws.

What should I look for?

If you’re experiencing any of these issues, you may benefit from occlusal equilibration:

The diagnostic process

If you’re concerned about jaw misalignment, you can schedule a diagnostic appointment, also known as the Records Process, with us. At this appointment, Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff will assess your mouth structure and will look at a 3D model of your teeth. After analyzing how your teeth move against each other, Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff determine if adjusting the biting surfaces of your teeth could help reposition your upper and lower jaws properly. A lot of times, equilibration won’t be recommended until after completing splint therapy.

Occlusal equilibration

If Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff determines that occlusal equilibration is right for you, you will come to a separate appointment for this procedure. During the procedure, Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff will gently reshape the biting surfaces of your teeth in a specific manner. The precise altering of the biting surfaces of your teeth will allow them to bite together properly and allow your jaw, muscles, and teeth to work in harmony.

The end result

Our patients are pleased with the results of an occlusal equilibration and often remark that they can feel the difference in their bite right away. It helps them feel more relaxed and like it is easier to chew.

If you think you may benefit from occlusal equilibration, you can schedule a consultation with us at Eggert Family Dentistry at 651.482.8412!

Stress, Anxiety and Your Oral Health

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

It’s estimated that 40 million Americans battle an anxiety disorder, the effects of which can be debilitating. Anxiety can cause panic attacks, headaches, depression, muscle aches, fatigue…the list goes on. What most of us don’t consider, however, is the effect that anxiety can have on our oral health.

Common oral side effects

Bruxism: Stress and anxiety cause tension in the jaw which can lead to teeth grinding. If you suspect you’re grinding your teeth, speak with Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff about a night guard to help protect your teeth from stress-related wear and tear.

TMD: When you experience stress or anxiety, you may clench your teeth and jaw. This tension causes stress on the temporomandibular joints which can cause temporomandibular disorder or TMD. At times, TMD can also be related to sleep and how you are (or are not!) sleeping. We have the ability to help you recognize signs and symptoms that your sleep may be broken or unhealthy. As with bruxism, Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff will likely recommend some kind of in-the-mouth appliance to ease jaw discomfort and protect these joints from wear. Learn more about TMD in one of our recent posts here!

Dry mouth: Many anti-anxiety medications, while effective at relieving anxiety, can reduce the production of saliva, leading to dry mouth. Without adequate saliva, it’s difficult for your mouth to rinse out food debris and plaque which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. It’s especially important to keep your mouth lubricated by sucking on sugar-free candy, chewing sugar-free gum and drinking plenty of water. Also, if you struggle with dry mouth, it’s especially important to brush and floss regularly as well as rinse with antibacterial and fluoridated mouthwash. Talk with us at your next recare visit as there are products we can recommend to help your dry mouth.

Lichen planus: Among other symptoms, stress can increase systemic inflammation. Inflammation increases the likelihood of developing mouth ulcers and white, lacy lines in the cheeks, known as lichen planus. This condition can cause a painful, burning sensation in the mouth and left untreated, has been linked to mouth cancer. Although it cannot be eliminated, you can reduce the symptoms of this bothersome condition in a number of ways. Learn more!

Cavities and gum disease: People who experience anxiety are more prone to dental phobia and therefore, oftentimes, avoid regular dental visits. When this occurs, oral health deteriorates and the instance of cavities and gum disease skyrockets. If you struggle with dental phobia, speak with Dr. Elizabeth and Dr. Jeff. They would love to explain our dental comforts and discuss how we can partner with you to make your visits as easy as possible!

Cold sores: Although the herpes simplex virus must be present for cold sores to develop, stress and anxiety can trigger an outbreak. It’s important to treat cold sores with an over-the-counter cream immediately to reduce the chances of spreading the virus to others.

Take charge of your oral health

Therapy, medications and regular exercise are just a few ways to reduce stress and anxiety before they wreak havoc on your oral health.

At Eggert Family Dentistry, we know that your mental health affects your oral health and we believe that they are both equally important components of overall wellness. If you’re concerned that your oral health is being compromised on account of stress or anxiety in your life, we recommend making an appointment with your primary physician as well as with Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff at 651.482.8412.

Learn more about the connection between mental health and oral health here!

Pain When You Chew? It Could Be TMD

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

There are a variety of factors that can contribute to jaw discomfort. From chewing on hard foods to facial tension from stress, jaw discomfort is a miserable, often debilitating experience. While there can be many contributing factors, there are at least as many great treatments. At Eggert Family Dentistry, we have hands-on experience diagnosing and treating TMD, one of the most common jaw disorders. Understanding what TMD is as well as its symptoms is crucial to proper diagnosis and treatment.

What is TMD?

Although people often refer to this jaw disorder at TMJ, the correct reference is TMD. TMJ refers to the joint itself – the temporomandibular joint – which is responsible for controlling many jaw functions like chewing and talking. TMD is a disorder of this joint, a condition which can stem from a variety of behavioral, psychological and physical issues.

Causes

TMD has many possible causes some of which include stress, jaw clenching, teeth grinding, arthritis, jaw dislocation, injury to the jaw and poor jaw and tooth alignment. Teeth grinding is particularly problematic because it can lead to further problems, many tooth related. Prolonged grinding can cause enamel to wear off teeth and expose dentin, making teeth more susceptible to decay. It can also increase a person’s sensitivity to hot and cold.

Signs and Symptoms

There are many symptoms of TMD that mimic other medical issues. This can make TMD difficult to pinpoint. TMD symptoms include:

  • Pain when opening or closing the mouth
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Jaw becoming stuck open or shut
  • Headaches, migraines, ear pain, ringing in the ears, double vision
  • Clicking or popping sounds when opening the mouth
  • Teeth grinding
  • Wearing down or breaking of the teeth

Diagnosis

The above-listed symptoms can be attributed to a variety of health problems. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms it’s best to start by visiting a medical professional for a whole body physical to rule out possible medical conditions. Keep in mind, however, that many medical professionals don’t fully understand how TMD can be a large part of your issue because they haven’t always been trained to make that connection. Especially if there is no concrete medical diagnosis, it is best to make an appointment with Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff for a consultation. We can screen you for TMD with our comprehensive records process and offer relief for your symptoms through the treatment option that’s right for you!

Treatment

If, upon completion of your consult, we determine that you’re dealing with TMD, we have numerous avenues of treatment that can provide you with relief and alleviate your symptoms. Some common treatment options include:

  • A custom night guard/splint that can help lessen the effects of teeth grinding and deprogram muscle patterns
  • Behavioral treatments and muscle therapies that change the way you use your jaw and muscles
  • Full-time splint therapy to provide full-time relief
  • Appliances to improve your airway
  • Full-mouth reconstruction to improve tooth position
  • Orthodontic treatment that may or may not include oral jaw surgery

Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff will also talk with you about some easy ways you can partner with us to get to the root of your symptoms and experience relief. Ideas include practicing relaxation techniques to alleviate stress, avoiding chewing gum or nail-biting, eating softer foods and incorporating hot/cold compresses to the jaw.

At Eggert Family Dentistry, mouth comfort is one of our highest priorities. If you think you’re experiencing the uncomfortable effects of TMD, schedule an appointment with Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff by calling us at 651.482.8412!