Why Does My Jaw Hurt When I Eat?

It’s the night after a party and you have some cold pizza left over. You want something in your stomach so you eat the cold pizza. By the end of the slice, your jaw is hurting. What’s going on? Before you diagnose yourself with jaw cancer, you should be aware of a common ailment that affects millions of Americans to varying degrees. It’s known as TMJ disorder. TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint. That’s just the joint where your jaw and your face connect. TMJ disorder (aka TMD) causes pain in the joint that can radiate to your neck, head, and other areas of your body creating significant discomfort. One identifiable symptom of the disorder is that it hurts to eat a slice of cold pizza.

While your dentist will not use cold pizza to perform diagnostic tests for TMD, it’s a good standard because it’s harder to chew than a lot of other types of food we eat and there’s enough of it to cause pressure on the joint. If it hurts to eat an entire slice of cold pizza, then chances are good that you have TMD.

I Only Notice the Pain When I’m Eating Cold Pizza

That’s probably less true than you think it is. TMD can result in pressure-like headaches, earaches, shoulder pain, dizziness, ringing in the ears, and a general reduction in your overall quality of life. In other words, TMD may not be a terminal disease, but it can result in quality of life issues. The good news is that TMD is very treatable.

Most folks go for years simply taking aspirin when they have a headache, getting annoyed that their slice of pizza is too hard, and even going to the chiropractor for adjustments. None of this will stop the issue from recurring.

What Should I Do About TMD?

The problem with TMJ disorders is that like most joints in your body, they are prone to arthritis. In the majority of cases, TMD is caused by excessive tooth grinding while sleeping. In other words, it’s related to stress or bad habits. In most cases, determining the cause of the TMD can reduce symptoms and prevent further damage. Those who simply manage the disorder through pain medications will find that the joint has a tendency to become more painful over time. Those who have developed TMD due to teeth grinding are at the greatest risk of developing arthritis in the jaw joint. For them, the use of a mouthguard at night can help prevent extensive damage caused by TMD.

In other cases, medication may be necessary. Dentists have even begun using botox to relax the jaw bone. It will depend entirely on the cause of your TMD.

Talk to a Flagstaff, AZ Dentist Today

Peak Family Dental Care has offices in Cottonwood, Flagstaff, and Sedona Arizona; and will happily answer any questions you have about jaw pain. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and we’ll start figuring out why your jaw hurts when you eat.