Has your child repeatedly complained of facial pain and you know there hasn’t been a recent accident to blame? Do they mention headaches and earaches, or pain and stiffness in their neck? These are a few of the symptoms that can be associated with a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).
The temporomandibular joints (commonly called the TMJ’s) on each side of the head connect the lower jaw to the skull. The joints can slide in different directions and allow the jaws to close. Although an injury to either joint and chewing muscles can result in jaw pain in children, there are other things that can contribute to their facial and jaw pain.
Some Common Causes of Jaw Pain in Children
Repeated grinding of teeth and clenching of jaws can cause the disc in the joint to wear and move out of place. It also can change how the teeth are aligned and affect the chewing muscles.
- Pain from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the TMJ can result in painful jaws.
- Inability to breathe through the nose normally is associated with grinding of teeth, clenching their jaws, and tensing their jaw muscles, increasing impact on TMD symptoms.
- Headaches, sinus problems, ear infections and nerve-related facial pain can lead to jaw and facial pain.
Symptoms of Jaw Pain in Children
Along with jaw pain, there are other symptoms that might point to TMD:
- Pain in muscles of the face, joints of the jaw, around the ears, and in the neck and shoulder muscles
- Sounds like clicks or grating and popping when opening or closing the mouth
- Biting or chewing difficulties
- Ear pain, loss of hearing, and/or ringing in the ears
- Difficulty in opening or closing the mouth
- Jaw locking open or closed
- Change in jaw alignment
- Loose, worn, or sensitive teeth
When to Schedule a Consultation with Our Office
If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, it is wise to schedule an appointment with us as soon as possible. We can observe and make a clinical evaluation of the jaw pain and its cause. We may use x-rays, CT scans, and MRI information to help diagnose and treat the pain. If their jaw has become locked open or shut, call us immediately.
Treatment of Jaw Pain in Children
Following are a few of the treatments we might recommend for your child. Each child and their condition is unique, however, and may require treatments not outlined here, depending upon their diagnosis.
First a foremost a comprehensive exam is needed to determine the root cause of their symptoms so an effective treatment plan can be carried out.
Cold Laser Therapy
Utilization of cold laser therapy is extremely beneficial in reducing pain, decreasing inflammation, and accelerating the healing process. We employ this modality daily in our office.
While many may think this should be first line treatment we stray away from giving children medications to mask their TMJ symptoms.
Using a Splint or Bite Guard
Oral appliances like orthotics can be beneficial at times for children with pain. These are sometimes used in conjunction with orthodontics or independently depending on the situation..
There are relaxation exercises to help relieve muscle tension in the jaw so it can become looser and more flexible. Therapy to reduce stress can help curb jaw pain, as well.
Applying Warm and Cold Compresses
Applying alternately cold and warm compresses to the painful area for 10 minutes coupled with stretching exercises can help alleviate the pain.
Avoiding Extreme Jaw Movements
Extreme jaw movements (wide yawns and gum chewing) can increase jaw pain. Encourage your child to avoid these behaviors and offer them soft foods to eat.
If your child is experiencing the symptoms we have discussed here, you would be wise to contact our office to schedule a consultation. Recognizing TMD problems and intervening early can prevent your child from experiencing unnecessary discomfort and damage to their teeth. We have the training and experience to diagnose and provide the help your child needs to feel better now. Please contact our office to schedule an evaluation today. We proudly serve Granger, Indiana, and surrounding communities.