The lower jaw- also called the mandible, is a vital component of the facial structure. It plays essential roles in various aspects of chewing, speaking and facial aesthetics. 

In this blog, let's delve into the function of the lower jaw, the common issues associated with it and also how to alleviate jaw pain.

lower jaw bone pain anatomy function

Structure and Function of the Lower Jaw

The mandible, commonly called the lower jaw, is the largest and strongest facial bone. It is U-shaped and provides immense support to lower teeth. 

The mandible consists of the body, ramus, angle and alveolar process. Together, these structures contribute to the strength, stability and function of the lower jaw.

The lower jaw teeth- also known as mandibular teeth are an essential part of the dentition system. 

In an adult human, the lower jaw typically contains 16 teeth, consisting of four incisors, two canines, four premolars, and six molars. It also includes the 3rd molars commonly referred to as wisdom teeth. 

Important functions of Lower jaw teeth include: 

1. Mastication 

  • Breaking down food into smaller particles for efficient digestion. 
  • Each tooth has its own specific shape, size, and function, working in coordination with the upper teeth to ensure proper occlusion and effective chewing. 
  • As we bite down on food, the lower jaw moves in coordination with the upper jaw, facilitating the grinding and crushing of food into smaller pieces. 
  • This is made possible by the muscles and joints that connect the lower jaw to the skull. 
  • The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) acts as a hinge, allowing the lower jaw to move up and down and from side to side. 

2. Speech Articulation 

  • It has active involvement in producing clear and intelligible speech. 
  • Any issues with the lower jaw's function, such as teeth misalignment or stiffness, can impact speech clarity and fluency. 

3. Lower Jaw Aesthetics 

  • The size, shape, and alignment of the lower jaw influence the overall facial profile and symmetry. 
  • A well-developed lower jaw creates balance and harmony with the other facial features, enhancing facial aesthetics.

1. Lower Jaw Pain

This pain can be due to various factors and can range from mild to severe discomfort. 

Some common causes include: 

  •  Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)

  • Dental problems such as tooth decay or infection

  • Bruxism (teeth grinding)

  • Oral infections

  • Facial trauma or injury

  • Inflammation of the jaw muscles.

2. Sinus Infection and Lower Jaw Pain Connection

The maxillary sinuses that are located near the cheeks and above the upper teeth can become inflamed and infected during a sinus infection. 

The proximity of these sinuses to the lower jaw leads to pain and discomfort. It might also result in confusion in identifying the source of the pain. 

To know if it’s a sinus infection-related pain, look out for these symptoms:

  • Facial pressure

  • Nasal congestion

  • Headache

  • A feeling of fullness in the face

Treating the underlying sinus infection with appropriate medical intervention, such as antibiotics or nasal decongestants, can help alleviate the associated lower jaw pain.

3. Misaligned Lower Jaw

A misaligned lower jaw, often referred to as a protruding lower jaw or mandibular prognathism, can pose functional and aesthetic concerns. 

Here, the lower jaw, also known as the mandible, does not properly align with the upper jaw or maxilla.

4. Small Lower Jaw

A small lower jaw, also known as micrognathia, can occur due to genetic factors or developmental abnormalities. 

It can lead to functional issues such as difficulty with chewing, speech problems, and obstructive sleep apnea.

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Exploring Treatment Options for Lower Jaw

In cases where the misalignment is mild to moderate, non-surgical approaches can be used for treatment. 

Here are some options,

1. Orthodontic Treatment: 

Braces or clear aligners can be used to gradually move the teeth and jaws into proper alignment. This can help correct minor misalignments of the lower jaw.

2. Orthodontic Appliances: 

Functional appliances, such as Herbst appliances or twin block appliances, can be used to guide the growth and development of the lower jaw and improve its alignment. 

These appliances are typically worn for a specific period and can help correct jaw discrepancies in growing individuals.

3. Orthognathic Exercises: 

Certain jaw exercises and stretches prescribed by a speech therapist or oral physiotherapist can help improve the alignment and function of the lower jaw. 

These exercises focus on strengthening and coordinating the muscles involved in jaw movement.

If the case is severe and non-surgical approaches are not sufficient, surgical intervention might be needed. These include:

4. Orthognathic Surgery: 

Orthognathic surgery, also known as jaw surgery, involves repositioning the upper and/or lower jaw to achieve proper alignment. 

This procedure is typically performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon and may involve the use of plates, screws, or wires to stabilize the newly positioned jaw.

5. Mandibular Osteotomy: 

Involves cutting and repositioning the lower jaw to correct its alignment. This procedure is used specifically to address lower jaw issues and can be performed in combination with orthognathic surgery if necessary.

Few other dental interventions can also be applied. These will also focus on the alignment and occlusion of the teeth, which can indirectly affect the position and function of the lower jaw. These include:

6. Dental Crowns or Veneers: 

The size and position of specific teeth can be altered and restored using dental crowns or veneers

These restorations can assist improve the lower jaw's general alignment and function by straightening the teeth.

7. Dental Implants: 

It is used to replace lost teeth in situations when they cause the lower jaw to be out of alignment. 

This aids in restoring appropriate dental alignment and may help the lower jaw line up properly.

8. Occlusal Adjustments: 

To obtain a more harmonic bite and appropriate jaw alignment, occlusal adjustments entail altering the biting surfaces of the teeth. 

To achieve a balanced bite can be achieved through selective grinding or the installation of dental restorations.

Relieve Lower Jaw Pain: Tips and Remedies to Try

Lower jaw pain can interfere with daily activities of your life. Alleviate lower jaw pain with these suggestions:

Apply Warm or Cold Compresses: 

You can ease pain and inflammation by applying a warm compress or an ice pack to the affected area. 

Apply a warm compress to ease stiffness or soreness in the jaw muscles, and an ice pack to reduce pain or swelling brought on by an injury or dental problem. 

To protect your skin, be sure to wrap the compress or ice pack in a thin cloth.

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers: 

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, are available over the counter and can help reduce lower jaw pain

If you have any underlying medical issues or are on other drugs, pay attention to the suggested dosage and talk to your doctor.

Avoid Challenging Foods: 

If your lower jaw hurts, it could help to steer clear of foods that call for a lot of jaw movement such as hard, chewy and sticky foods. 

Choose softer foods over harder ones so that your jaw muscles won't have to work as hard.

Practice Jaw Relaxation Exercises: 

Jaw relaxation techniques and gentle jaw exercises can help alleviate jaw discomfort and muscle stress. 

To relieve jaw discomfort brought on by stress, try gently opening and closing your mouth, massaging your jaw muscles with your fingertips, and engaging in deep breathing and relaxation techniques.

Maintain Good Oral Hygiene: 

Poor oral hygiene can contribute to lower jaw pain. 

Brush and floss your teeth regularly to prevent dental issues that can cause jaw pain, such as tooth decay or gum disease

Consult with your dentist if you experience persistent or severe jaw pain.

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