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Jaw Pain Causes, Treatments & Prevention

When you experience jaw or facial pain, it is normal to suspect immediately that your teeth are the cause. Even though this may be true in many cases, there are also several medical conditions that can be contributing factors; this possibility makes diagnosis and treatment much more difficult. It is important that you consult both a dental specialist and your physician.

Treat the Cause, Not the Symptoms

Many patients who experience chronic jaw pain try to treat themselves with over-the-counter painkillers or prescription narcotics intended for the use of other family members. To properly treat the pain, you need a diagnosis; painkillers address the symptoms and not the cause. This can create other problems for the patient that complicate diagnosis. There are serious side effects from the overuse of painkillers: Taking excessive amounts of over-the-counter ibuprofen or acetaminophen can cause kidney necrosis and liver failure, respectively. Abuse of prescription narcotics can lead to addiction.

If you are experiencing jaw pain, it is very important for your dentist or oral surgeon to conduct a thorough exam. This often includes dental X-rays, CAT scans and sometimes blood work. A dental origin of the pain should be ruled out before blood work is performed.

Potential Causes and Treatments

The dental causes of jaw or facial pain include decayed or abscessed teeth, gum infection (periodontal abscess), teeth grinding, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) and injury to your jaws. These causes can be treated by your dentist or oral and maxillofacial surgeon. Decayed or abscessed teeth will be treated with root canal, fillings, or extractions. Gum infections will be treated with antibiotics and deep scaling.

Temporomandibular joint dysfunction is the most difficult problem to treat because it has multiple possible causes. The pain could originate in the muscles of the jaw or a dysfunction of the joint. Misalignment of the teeth could be another contributing factor and can be corrected with braces. If the cause of the pain is due to the muscles, it may be treated with muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory drugs and a mouth guard. Dysfunction of the joint may be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs and arthroscopic surgery.

Trauma to the jaws can cause injury to the bones, muscles, temporomandibular joint and teeth. These types of injuries can be treated with muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory drugs and surgery. Additional medical causes of jaw or facial pain include dislocation of the jaw, arthritis, angina, cluster headaches, ear infections, cysts or tumors, heart attack, sinus infection, migraine, stress and trigeminal neuralgia.

Heart attack can be the most serious cause of facial pain. People most often experience chest pain with a heart attack, but this pain radiates to the jaw. Some heart attack patients will experience pain only in the jaw. Another condition that can cause jaw pain is angina; angina occurs when the heart muscle lacks oxygen.

Cluster headaches, ear infections and migraines are all conditions that cause pain to radiate to the jaws. Cyst or tumors in the jaws and sinus infections will cause pain that radiates to the teeth. Trigeminal neuralgia is a condition that causes excruciating jaw and facial pain. The pain is short-lasting and only on one side of the face. It can also be shooting, stabbing or electrical in nature. This condition may also mimic dental pain. Trigeminal neuralgia is often misdiagnosed, and many patients undergo unwarranted dental procedures. This condition can be treated with medication and appropriate surgical procedures.

As you can see, jaw pain has many causes. It is important not to treat only the symptoms but to seek professional help. Your dentist and physician should be involved early on to diagnose the problem and to develop the proper treatment plan.

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Bad Teeth May Cause Serious Health Problems

Everyone wants a friendly smile, and perfect teeth make it so much easier to achieve. The impact of bad teeth on your life goes far beyond the issue of appearance. A less-than-perfect smile may contribute to a number of overall health risks. Some of the problems associated with crooked and damaged teeth are preventable and others can be managed with orthodontic procedures.

In all cases, good oral hygiene and taking care of your teeth help prevent serious health problems, but what happens when you have poor dental health?

How Crooked Teeth Can Affect Your Health

There’s a difference between crooked teeth and teeth that are “bad” because of decay, neglect or gum disease. Each of those problems may have an effect on your health. Misaligned teeth, also known as malocclusion, like an over or underbite, may lead to the following health issues:

Excessive wear on certain areas of the teeth
Teeth grinding (also known as bruxism) that may result in headaches
Temporomandibular joint disorders that can cause strain on the jaws, teeth and facial muscles
Difficulty brushing and flossing, resulting in dental caries and gum disease

While many of these outcomes can be prevented with timely care, oral conditions, such as gum disease and dental caries, can lead to other medical issues.

Conditions Related to Poor Dental Health

An unhealthy mouth, regardless of the cause, may include problems like gum or periodontal disease, gingivitis, tooth loss, mouth sores and a buildup of plaque. These all result in the presence of bacteria in your mouth, which can affect your entire body and result in serious medical conditions such as:

Respiratory infections. Patients with dental caries and periodontal disease constantly breathe in bacteria from decayed teeth and infected gums, and over time this can lead to respiratory tract infections, pneumonia and pulmonary diseases such as COPD, according to a study in the Journal of Periodontology.

Diabetes. This condition results in a “two-way street,” with diabetes sufferers having an increased risk of gum disease due to a compromised immune system that makes them more susceptible to bacterial infections. At the same time, a patient with severe gum disease may have a stronger chance of developing diabetes, because efficient blood sugar control becomes more challenging.

Dementia. It may sound surprising, but there’s even a link between dementia and oral health. A report published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society shows a correlation between tooth loss in seniors and poor performance in memory and walking speed.

The risks presented by poor dental health make it imperative to maintain a healthy mouth. If you have crooked teeth or a bad bite, it may be worth your while to consider orthodontic treatment to correct the problem. For other types of bad teeth, oral hygiene is paramount. Brush and floss daily to keep your mouth clean, and protect and soothe sore gums with regular use of an antiseptic mouthwash for Gum Health.

Keep your mouth healthy and take care of your teeth throughout your life, and you’ll reap the long-term benefits in the form of a pain-free mouth and whole body health.

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Ten Dental Hygiene Tips for a More Thorough Clean

Brushing your teeth every morning and night doesn’t guarantee you’re giving your mouth all the attention it needs. Even a regular oral hygiene routine could be leaving gaps if you engage in a few not-so-great habits with your time at the sink. By understanding proper brushing technique and ensuring you have the right tools in your cabinet, you can make sure you have all of your bases covered when pursuing a more thorough clean. Consider the following dental hygiene tips to help you take your care routine to the next level.

Use Proper Brushing Technique

A quick wash of your bristles isn’t enough to banish leftover food particles and polish your teeth. Instead, use a technique echoed by the American Dental Association (ADA): Start with your brush at a 45-degree angle to your gums and use short back and forth strokes across the sides and tops of your teeth. Then, hold the brush vertically and use several shorter strokes to focus on the backs of your teeth of the front anterior teeth where plaque builds up often.

Brush Enough

Many people brush regularly, but simply don’t brush enough for their teeth to stay clean. The ADA recommends brushing for at least two minutes, twice daily. Having trouble gauging your routine for this duration? Try listening to short song, cue up a two-minute YouTube video or set a timer on your phone to give yourself the time you need to thoroughly clean your teeth.

Pick the Right Brush

Always look for a brush whose head and bristles are small enough to reach into the crevices of your molars, where food debris can hide after you eat. According to the International Dental Health Association, most adults require a small- or medium-sized toothbrush for this purpose.

Look for the ADA Seal

Not all toothpastes are created equally. For the best clean, look for a product carrying the ADA Seal of Acceptance, which meets strict manufacturing regulations that promise an effective clean with a dosage of fluoride suitable for adults and kids past a certain age. This seal ensures you’re using a product the ADA guarantees will do a safe and thorough job every time you brush.

Floss Properly

Like brushing, flossing must be done properly so that, when you reach between teeth, you actually get to the germs that are stuck there. Ideally, use a piece of floss up to 18 inches in length, allowing you to use a fresh area of floss every few teeth without reinserting bacteria you just removed. Keep in mind the floss should rub against the teeth in a motion that creates a forward or backward ‘C’ shape, wrapping the floss around each tooth.

Use a Mouthwash

Mouthwash can go where toothbrushes and floss can’t in order to rid your mouth of the same debris that irritates the gumline and causes gingivitis. Add this mouthwash to your oral care regimen to get the most thorough clean you can, even when you’re on the go.

Clean Your Brush

You don’t need special equipment or covers to keep the brush itself clean. In fact, the ADA warns that covering your toothbrush can actually breed new bacteria and introduce it into your mouth. Instead, just rinse your brush after each use and allow it to air dry. You should also avoid sharing brushes with others, even your kids.

Change Your Brush

Bristles deteriorate with time and usage, so if you’re using the same toothbrush beyond a few months, you may not be getting the best clean anymore. Rather, make a point of getting a new brush every three to four months – or at your semiannual dental checkup.

Use a Tongue Scraper

Some toothbrushes now come with a ridged tooth-scraper on the back of the brush. And after brushing, bacteria can still remain on the tongue, so be sure to brush or scrape your tongue as part of your daily routine. Not only will it banish bacteria, but cleaning your tongue can also help freshen your breath.

Stop Snacking

Hungry for a midnight snack? Brushing well may clear your teeth of bacteria and food particles, but if you eat a snack afterward, you’ll need to brush again before bed. Having a snack before sleep (without brushing) can allow food particles and sugar to remain on your teeth for too long, providing fuel for bacteria that feeds on it.

Oral hygiene should be part of any system of body health. By following these dental hygiene tips, you can choose the best products, improve your technique and ensure you’re doing everything in your power to keep your mouth cavity-free.

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