3 reasons you may have jaw pain

Are you experiencing jaw pain, and you continue to seek solutions, but you just can’t seem to get to the bottom of it? Here are three reasons why you may have jaw pain.

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What You Need To Know About Paw Pain

The most common thing you may be aware of is that you’ve been clenching or grinding, whether at night or during the day. Perhaps your dentist has told you that you’ve been grinding?

Here are three primary causes that will help you to uncover the underlying causes of your pain.

Causes of Jaw Pain

1. Stress

Stress can contribute to clenching and/or grinding. This can also be associated with poor vagal tone or poor parasympathetic activity.

Often, these are associated, and there’s a correlation with the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve can specifically act as a sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve.

The trigeminal nerve actually innervates the skin of the face, the mucosa, and the nasal cavity, and so it has a very deep connection with the vagus nerve. Therefore, it actually produces specific neurotransmitters, so when there’s a dysfunction of the trigeminal nerve, it can be associated with some mood issues and neuropsychiatric disorders.

When there’s a miscommunication between these two nerves, often influenced by stress or trauma, then this can contribute to clenching and grinding.

2. Airway dysfunction

One of the biggest causes of jaw pain, and often overlooked, is an overbite, underbite, poor tongue posture, tonsil issues, small nasal valves, or a deviated septum. There are so many potential airway dysfunctions that could be contributing to your jaw pain, so it is very important that if you’ve had chronic jaw pain, you have your airway evaluated by a specialist. That can help you breathe, move and sleep better.

3. Lack of stability in the body

Finally, one of the reasons why you may have jaw pain is compensation for lack of stability somewhere else in the body. Most commonly, there’s a deep connection to the pelvic floor. When the pelvic floor is very overactive, and is not sequencing, relaxing, and contracting the way it should, there can often be associations with the clenching and grinding within the jaw.

And so, let’s take the example of you standing on one leg. If you’re trying to stand on one leg and you’re really out of balance, your body is going to figure out some mechanism to be safe.

When you have jaw pain, or any other pain for that matter, you really want to dig deeper and find out why so that you can treat the underlying cause. Identifying the root cause will help you become pain-free, live an active lifestyle, breathe better, sleep better, eat better, and do all the wonderful things you deserve.

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Jaw-Emotion Link

If you experience jaw pain, you should know about its link to emotions. Poor vagal tone is linked to things like clenching and grinding.

When we have overstimulation of the trigeminal nerve from the masseter muscle, one of our main jaw muscles, we are in sympathetic nervous system (flight/flight) overdrive. Clenching or grinding your teeth at night or during a stressful situation is very common.

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Other Factors that Affect Jaw Pain

Poor tongue posture can also contribute to jaw pain. The tongue should be on the roof of the mouth and gently touches the back of the teeth in our resting tongue posture.

If we have dysfunctional breathing or breathing from the neck and shoulders, that creates a stress response. That can further drive dysfunction in the trigeminal nerve.

The trigeminal nerve innervates the muscles of the face, sinuses, and nasal cavity. It is one of the biggest nerves that we want to associate with our sympathetic nervous system, our fight or flight system. It is also deeply connected to the vagus nerve.

Our vagus nerve is 80% of our parasympathetic nervous system. These two nerves are bringing information to the brain and affect transmitters such as serotonin and noradrenaline, which are linked to neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Ultimately, when we have dysfunction or miscommunication in these nerves, whether the sympathetic nervous system is increased or the parasympathetic nervous system is decreased,  then this can contribute to jaw pain. 

Most often, you’ll see clenching and grinding at night. Our reticular activating system is part of our brainstem and when we’re sleeping, our cerebrum is at rest and our reticular activating system is that alert system that is going to tell us if our child is crying.  Think of it as our survival mechanism. So during sleep is often where we’ll start to see the sympathetic overdrive kick in. 

Takehome Message

The take-home message is that there is truly a jaw-emotion link. If you’re suffering from TMJ, have your airway evaluated. It is important to make sure that there are no structural abnormalities that are contributing to it. However, you also want to dive into the emotional aspect of it. Explore your emotions, learn how to regulate your nervous system, try many of my vagus nerve hacks, speak to a professional. Find what works for you. 

I hope this was helpful if it was please give it a share with your friends and family. Make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel The Movement Paradigm for weekly tips on mindset, nutrition, and movement.

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