The Danger of Self Diagnosing Jaw Pain
One of the goals of medical blogs and databases is to spread awareness of health problems by making information more readily available to the general public. Unfortunately, many medical conditions have similar symptoms. A person suffering from one set of symptoms may find similar symptoms described online, leading them to believe that they have a condition that they do not actually have. Some people may take their mistaken self-diagnosis to heart and believe that they do not need to visit a medical professional, when in reality their symptoms indicate a life-threatening condition.
People may also be tempted to self-diagnose their jaw pain as TMJ, and treat it themselves. Seeking help from an experienced TMJ dentist is a better move because rest alone will not always resolve TMJ symptoms. A night guard may be required to prevent nighttime bruxism (grinding your teeth), or dental work could be needed to correct a bite offset by crooked teeth or ill-fitting restorations. Your jaw pain could also be caused by other serious conditions, so it is best to have a medical professional take a look.
Jaw Pain Might Indicate Other Painful Conditions
Earaches that are unrelated to infection, combined with face and jaw pain are common symptoms associated with TMJ. The existence of any of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that a person has TMJ. There are other conditions that also cause these symptoms. One such condition is parotitis, the inflammation of salivary glands located on either side of the face. These glands sit over the jaw and in front of each ear. When these glands become inflamed, they put pressure on the inner ear and nerves in the jaw, causing pain.
Potentially Life-Threatening Conditions
Jaw pain may also accompany more serious conditions. Neck cancer often causes both ear and jaw pain. People with neck cancer may also experience difficulty chewing or opening their jaw wide. Other symptoms of neck cancer that may go unnoticed by someone who has mistaken their jaw pain for TMJ include dentures that no longer fit or the loosening of teeth. These symptoms could be thought of merely as causes for what a person believes is TMJ.
Another serious condition that causes jaw pain and muscle spasms in the face is tetanus. In the early stages of infection, tetanus causes spasms in the jaw muscles, also called lockjaw. If left untreated, these spasms will spread progressively to other muscles in the body. Tetanus is commonly contracted when rusty metal breaks the skin, introducing the bacteria Clostridium tetani to the blood stream. The incubation period is usually 8 days, but can last several months before symptoms surface. This condition has an 11% mortality rate and requires immediate medical attention.
Bone infection (osteomyelitis) may also be the root of jaw pain. Osteomyelitis occurs when bacteria gains access to the bone. This may be the result of an injury that breaks the skin and creates an infection that goes untreated. Tooth decay may also lead to an infection in the bone if left untreated for a long period of time. Like other infections, osteomyelitis may worsen over time, or the infection could spread and be carried to other parts of the body through the blood.
Jaw pain can also be a symptom of heart attack, especially for women. It may be accompanied by pain in other places, such as the arms or stomach. Shortness of breath is also common, but chest pain remains the most common symptom.
Checking in with a Medical Professional
While there are many things that can cause TMJ-like symptoms, most are very rare and are frequently not even a concern for most people. However, your health is very important, and should not be left up to chance. Making the assumption that you know the cause of your pain could leave more serious conditions develop into emergencies in the future. If you’re at all worried about persistent jaw pain, contacting a dentist who often treats TMJ and its symptoms should be your first move.
If you are experiencing symptoms of TMJ, please call 303-759-5652 today for an appointment with a Denver dentist at Park Meadows Dental Care.