Impacted wisdom teeth can cause discomfort similar to that associated with a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. Pain from either condition can cause aches in the jaw that radiate to the ear and elsewhere in the face. However, TMJ disorders are specifically caused by defects in the jaw joint. While impacted wisdom teeth can cause TMJ disorders by placing excessive stress on the jaw, this is a pretty rare cause of TMJ disorder. That condition is much more likely to be due to muscle strains, malocclusions or damage to the jaw.
If you’re experiencing jaw discomfort and you’ve never had your wisdom teeth extracted, you should consult with an oral surgeon to determine the specific cause of the pain and get effective treatment.
Even though the likelihood of impacted wisdom teeth causing TMJ disorder is low, there are other problems that can result when the large third molars attempt to erupt into a jaw that doesn’t have enough space for them. Impacted wisdom teeth are more likely to develop cysts or tumors, and they can cause teeth to shift out of the correct alignment as they continue to exert pressure on the smile. It is also tremendously difficult to keep the rearmost portion of the jaw clean, so impacted wisdom teeth are more susceptible to infections and abscesses as well.
To avoid these consequences, many patients will choose to have an oral surgeon extract their impacted wisdom teeth preventively. Wisdom tooth extraction does require a surgical procedure because it is usually necessary to remove bone in order to access and remove the wisdom teeth. However, patients usually can resume their normal activities within a few days of having their wisdom teeth removed.
TMJ disorders may be treated surgically, as well. However, the first interventions are usually non-invasive. If the patient’s symptoms don’t respond to those, then surgery will be considered.
Are you having jaw pain that might be due to a TMJ disorder or to impacted wisdom teeth? Come to our office to be evaluated and learn what treatment can alleviate your symptoms.