Chronic pain involving the mouth, gums, teeth, or jaw can be a horribly uncomfortable experience that any person would want relief from as soon as possible. Often, a dentist can help you with chronic pain relief. To do so, the dentist must determine what kind of pain you are in, and if possible, what is causing the pain.
There are many oral issues that are associated with chronic pain, including TMJ, burning mouth syndrome, and bruxism, or teeth grinding. First, you must understand how these issues occur before you can understand how they are treated.
Otherwise known as TMJ, Temporomandibular Joint connects the lower jaw to the side of the head, a bone known as the temporal bone. This is a very complicated bone structure, as the joint is flexible, allowing you to move your jaw up and down as well as left to right.
One can experience several kinds of TMJ disorders than can cause serious pain. Myofascial pain involves discomfort in the muscle and jaw. Internal derangement is pain caused by the joint being displaced, dislocated, or injured. Arthritis can also occur, which leaves the area of the joint tender and worn.
It is difficult to diagnose and treat TMJ disorders because there are very little tests available to discover exactly what problem exists in the joint area. However, by talking to a dentist about your symptoms, they can help pinpoint if there is a problem with your TMJ. A dentist that knows your medical history will be especially helpful.
Treatments for TMJ disorders can range from conservative to extreme. For low pain, dentists recommend self-care practices such as eating soft foods, applying ice packs to the painful area, and learning techniques for relaxing and stretching the jaw.
Dentists may also recommend certain pain medications, including over the counter meds, that can help relieve some jaw discomfort.
For the most extreme cases, stabilization splints can be applied that will help re-align your jaw to serve your TMJ better. As well, there are surgical techniques that can invade the tissue around the jaw and help re-align your TMJ. However, surgical techniques are still somewhat controversial and should be avoided if possible.
Learn how TMJ Therapy can help you here.
Burning Mouth Syndrome
Otherwise known as BMS, Burning Mouth Syndrome is a chronic pain condition where a person experiences burning sensations on the tongue, lips, roof of mouth, gums and cheeks. There is no one physical abnormality that causes the issue that makes BMS a complicated condition.
BMS can last for several months to years. Typically, the pain starts mildly in the morning and becomes worse throughout the day. The syndrome can also bring symptoms of dry lips, a sore mouth, and a metallic taste on the tongue.
Though there is not one specific cause of BMS, most dentists agree that the following symptoms are often associated with BMS:
- Nutritional deficiencies (especially iron, folate, and vitamin B)
- Dry mouth
- Oral candidiasis (this is a fungal infection of the mouth)
- Anxiety and Depression
To treat BMS, pain relievers are often used to alleviate the symptoms. However, antidepressants can also be used to help reduce pain. Tricyclic antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and muoclsal protectors have all shown signs of improving BMS symptoms.
Again self-care practices can also help fight against BMS, including:
- Avoiding mouthwash with alcohol in it
- Chewing sugarless gum
- Avoiding alcohol
- Avoiding spicy and acidic foods
Generally referred to as teeth grinding, Bruxism is a condition where a person grinds their teeth, usually unconsciously. While most people, at some point, grind their teeth, it is when it becomes a chronic issue that it’s a bigger concern.
Teeth grinding often occurs during your sleep, so most people are unaware of the issue. They’ll often wake up with sore jaws and a splitting headache, completely unaware teeth grinding has caused it. Often, it is a loved one that hears the grinding, which is an awful sound, and informs them of the issue.
Not only can teeth grinding cause serious pain that can last throughout the day, it also badly damages your teeth, wearing away at the enamel that protects your teeth from cavities.
The best treatment for teeth grinding is by preventing the problem with a mouth guard. However, you can also practice self-care by avoiding caffeine and alcohol, training yourself to unclench your teeth during the day, and relaxing your jaw muscle at night by holding a warm washcloth to your jaw just below your earlobes.
If you believe you are experiencing any of the chronic pain problems above, or have another issue that is causing you discomfort, do not hesitate to contact Water Tower Dental. We’d be happy to help you lose the discomfort and move forward with a bright smile.