Your lower jaw is an integral part of eating, speaking and other tasks involving the mouth. But what happens if you suffer an injury to one of the two joints that connect it to the skull? The result could be serious pain and the inability to bring the upper and lower teeth together properly.
The exact types of injuries causing the pain and disability can vary, like the displacement of a tooth or a group of teeth. Another is swelling in the joint space that prevents the head of the joint (the condyle) from fully seating in the joint space; you could also experience a joint dislocation as the condyle is forced completely out of the joint space. Either swelling or dislocation can prevent the back teeth on the side of the affected joint from fitting together properly.
Another traumatic injury is a fracture of the bone at or near the joint; one of the most common is known as a “sub-condylar” fracture where the break occurs just below the condyle and results in more severe pain than inflammation or dislocation. A more serious fracture may involve the joint itself.
To treat the symptoms properly, it’s important to determine which of these injuries has occurred. This requires a full examination, including x-ray imaging, to determine if the injury involves soft tissue, bone or both. In the case of inflammation, we would prescribe anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant medication. The latter is especially helpful because trauma often leads to muscle spasms that lock the jaw in place to reduce further damage (nature’s splint, if you will). A dislocation may also require gentle manipulation to seat the condyle back into the joint.
Fractures are treated generally by repositioning the broken portions of the bone into their normal position and then immobilizing them while they heal. Immobilization is accomplished by joining the upper and lower teeth together, either by external or internal means. The latter option requires a surgical procedure.
If you’ve suffered an injury that results in any of these symptoms you should contact our office immediately. Only a complete diagnosis can point the way to the proper treatment that will relieve your discomfort.
If you would like more information on the causes and treatment of jaw pain, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Jaw Pain — What’s the Cause?”
Here’s a quick quiz: What recent activity did domestic guru Martha Stewart share via social media for the first time? Need a hint? Was she following the lead of other celebrities like rapper 50 Cent (AKA Curtis James Jackson III), actress Demi Moore and country music star LeAnn Rimes?
Give up? The answer is… she live-tweeted her visit to the dentist! Not only that, she also posted pictures of her mouth as she was undergoing an in-office whitening procedure.
Now, we understand that some might feel they don’t need to see close-ups of Stewart’s teeth under treatment. But we have to admire her for not trying to hide the fact that she’s had the same procedure that has benefited so many people, whether famous or not. Plus, her pictures actually provide a good illustration of how the treatment works.
In-office whitening treatments are the fastest way to brighten up your smile. In a single one-hour visit, your teeth can be lightened by three to eight shades — and that’s a big difference! How can we achieve such dramatic results? When you’re under our direct supervision in an office setting, we can use the most concentrated bleach solutions safely and effectively. You can get similar results with custom-made trays and take-home lightening solutions we can prepare for you, but then the process will take longer.
If you look closely at her photos, you’ll see that Stewart’s lips, gums, and face are covered up to prevent any contact with the bleaching solution. She’s also wearing protective eyewear, which not only keeps chemicals away, but also guards her eyes against strong lights, which are sometimes used in conjunction with bleach. When we perform in-office whitening procedures, we use safeguards like these for all of our patients — not just celebrities!
We also perform a complete oral examination before starting any whitening procedure, to be sure you don’t have any underlying conditions that need to be treated before teeth whitening begins. That’s something you just can’t get from an over-the counter whitening product.
Teeth whitening is an effective and affordable way to give your smile a quick boost. But whether you decide to live-tweet your procedure — or keep your fans guessing about why your smile looks so good all of a sudden — that’s up to you.
If you would like more information about the teeth whitening, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Teeth Whitening” and “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered.”