I’ve had some degree of dental anxiety ever since I was a child, but I did a fair job of keeping up with appointments until I was in my early 20s. At that point, I was having some minor jaw pain and the doctor also found a couple of cavities that needed to be filled. He knew about the jaw pain, but told me there wasn’t any cause for concern over it. He felt it was related to grinding at night. My experience with the fillings, however, was horrific. He must have made me keep my mouth open for about two hours straight. It hurt so bad and I kept telling him I needed a break, but he kept going and telling me it would only be a minute or two more. By the end of it, tears were streaming down my face and he basically told me I was acting like a child. It really hurt! I couldn’t eat normally for weeks after that and I haven’t been back since. Now, I know my teeth have some issues going on, but my jaw pain is really flaring up again too. I think I should see a TMJ dentist for that, but where do I go first? Can he treat me before I get my cavities filled, so I can get through the treatment or do I need to start with my teeth and then address my jaw? I don’t think I can do more fillings before fixing my jaw pain.
Marie E. – Pittsburg
See the TMJ dentist first. It sounds like you’re already familiar with how one can help you. A TMJ dentist can address the root cause of your jaw pain and hopefully get it to settle down so you can be comfortable getting your other dental needs seen to.
With that said, something about what you said jumped out. You mentioned that your prior dentist said you grind your teeth at night and that’s what was causing your jaw pain. If this is the case, getting a simple night guard made might be all you need to address the sore jaw. Undoubtedly, the TMJ dentist will discuss this with you if you’re a good candidate for one. However, what’s striking is that your prior doctor didn’t mention this. It was cause for concern and should have been treated back then.
Continuous grinding not only strains your jaw and muscles, but wears down your teeth. If wouldn’t be too surprising to find that you’ve weakened the biting surface of your teeth enough that they’re either sensitive or highly susceptible to decay. In extreme circumstances, you can wear them down enough or crack them so that they’ll require crowns, but most of the time fillings can repair the damage.
Although this doesn’t matter in terms of getting you out of immediate pain, you may want to keep this in mind for when you go in for a full diagnosis. It’s not the end of the world by any means. You’re on the right path and will get your dental concerns addressed, but it could take some time to restore the damage that’s occurred over years of grinding. Best of luck to you.
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