My jaw has been popping for a long time. Sometimes it also seems to need to open at an angle or to the side a little, not just straight down.  I don’t know why, but now whenever I open my jaw wide, it’s like it is grinding. This week it has started to hurt and I wonder if I have dislocated my jaw. Should I see an emergency dentist?

Cynthia, Columbus, OH

Dear Cynthia,

Jaw pain from TMDFrom the list of your symptoms, you may be suffering from Temporomandibular Disorder, or TMD. Sometimes this is also know as TMJ and includes a number of problems associated with the jaw. Some patients with TMD just feel uncomfortable and others experience severe pain.

Symptoms of TMD

When you do suffer from TMD, you may experience that grinding sound, also known as Crepitus. That occurs when you have bone grinding on bone. You may also experience headaches, clicking sounds, restricted motion, and/or pain. You may be further on the spectrum, but unless your jaw is locked closed and your jaw can’t be manipulated open, it probably doesn’t warrant a trip to the emergency dentist.

There are several factors  that can affect TMD. If you grind your teeth at night or clench your jaw, especially if you are stressed, it can aggrevate it. Your jaw can be affected if your bite is off. Arthritis may play a part. There are many reasons why your joint hurts or the muscles around that joint aren’t working well together.

To help ease your discomfort associated with TMD, you can use a moist heating pad on your jaw for 20 minutes a day. If you know you are stressed and it is making your symptoms worse, try to find ways to alleviate it. This may include exercise, meditation, relaxation techniques–whatever works for you. Also, avoid chewing gum and clenching your teeth.

Because TMD can get worse if left unchecked, you will want to see a dentist who is experienced in TMD.  You will most likely be given an appliance to help you with your symptoms.

This post is sponsored by Vista Dorada Dental in Gilbert, AZ.