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FAQ:  Jaw Pain

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For the last couple of years, I've indulged in a probably bad habit of stretching my cheek muscles by shifting my lower jaw to the right, and then to the left, etc. On occasion when I do this, whatever side I'm stretching will pop, and for an hour or so afterward, if I make that stretching movement again, I can hear a sort of grinding.

I wanted to give you that as background, but I don't recall having popped my jaw in this way within the last couple of weeks, which is when the right side of my jaw, very far in back near where the joint must be, began hurting. It hurts when I open my mouth wide, and when I make that stretching motion on that side of my face, which I find myself doing unintentionally just while eating, working a piece of food out of my teeth, things like that.

Should I be concerned about this? Do I need to see a doctor, or is this something that I can expect to correct itself at some point? Any thoughts on what the problem? ...Visitor from WA, DC

The T-M Joint has a disc between the two bones that acts as a cushioning device. When you stretch the joint the disc moves off of the lower bone (condyle), this causes the noise (popping) that you hear and the grinding is the disc working it's way back into place. As the disc is stretched so is the tissue behind the dics which has the blood vessels and nerves in it. This may cause tiny tears in the tissue and results in an inflamation.

Advil or Motrin is the usual medication for this however you should see a doctor or a dentist for the proper dose for you. If this does not clear up and if you are experiencing difficulty with the jaw movements a dentist can make a bite plate for you.

The bite plate will give the joint more room and allow the disc to slide into place and heal. The sooner you are seen the better the results for scar tissue can form and keep the disc from returning to the original place.

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