Jaw pain is often the result of a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. This condition is relatively common, as the jaw has numerous components – muscles, tendons and bones – any of which can develop a problem that causes discomfort, as well as other symptoms. Those include locking or popping of the jaws, difficulty chewing or facial and/or ear pain. Any of those symptoms may lead patients to consult with a dentist or even an oral surgeon for treatment.
When patients’ symptoms do not resolve with more conservative interventions, such as relaxation techniques and painkiller medications, jaw surgery may be indicated to correct a structural anomaly that creates the environment necessary for the TMJ disorder. These surgical procedures, also known as orthognathic surgery, are designed to improve jaw function and may eliminate these TMJ disorders and the symptoms associated with them.
The oral surgeon will thoroughly examine the jaw, both visually and with x-rays, to determine which specific structure is at the root of the condition. Three-dimensional imaging can be tremendously helpful in planning the surgery, as it offers the surgeon a more lifelike view of the patient’s jaw and allows for more realistic preparation.
The treatment planning process also gives the patient the opportunity to ask any questions about the intervention and gather the information they need to make a fully informed decision. Don’t ever hesitate to ask your provider any questions that are bothering you or ask for a detailed description of the procedure, as well as its risks or benefits.
The issues that can contribute to TMJ disorders may be congenital – that is, present since birth – or come on during the course of the jaw’s development during childhood and adolescence. Facial trauma can also create conditions conducive to TMJ disorder. Jaw surgery can effectively improve defects in any of those scenarios.
In addition to improving your jaw’s function and eliminating jaw pain, orthognathic surgery may also improve the aesthetics of the patient’s smile if asymmetry is detracting from that smile. Orthognathic surgery is often performed in conjunction with orthodontic treatment to reposition the teeth in a way that improves the bite, so an orthodontist may also be involved in your care.
We encourage patients who are experiencing jaw pain to contact our office to be evaluated for a TMJ disorder. Effective treatments are available to address your symptoms and improve your oral health and your quality of life.