Jaw pain in children

Whilst more prevalent in teenage girls, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders can commonly affect children of any age. Disorders of the TMJ in children can cause temporomandibular disorder (TMD).

Does my child have children’s TMJ disorder?

TMJ disorders are most commonly seen in children with:

  • Dental problems such as a bad bite
  • Joint problems such as arthritis
  • Trauma to the jaw or face
  • Significant stress.

What are the symptoms of children’s TMJ disorder?

The symptoms of TMD in children are the same as those for adults.

Most commonly, children will report a popping, clicking, or grating sound as they open and close their mouth. If they do, don’t panic. It is common for children to suffer from a tight jaw or even sore facial muscles every now and then. Facial pains usually resolve in a few days without treatment. Children can however develop TMJ disorders or chronic and prolonged TMJ pain due to stress.

Many children experience anxiety daily. Even something as simple as a test at school, or unmanaged anger, can manifest in a child as jaw clenching or teeth grinding.

The best thing to do in this scenario is to teach children how to recognise jaw tension and show them how to manage the stress and emotions in their life.

How is children’s TMJ disorder diagnosed?

TMJ symptoms that persist should be investigated by a primary practitioner or dentist. An assessment at the TMJ Relief Clinic can confirm the presence of TMD and provide techniques to help manage the symptoms.

How is children’s TMJ disorder treated?

For many children TMD is resolved by an awareness of clenching or grinding behaviours and appropriate management strategies. If jaw tension habits have persisted for some time, some treatment may be recommended to avoid future dental damage, and/or the development of more serious TMJ disorder symptoms.

We provide Myobrace as treatment for children from as young as 6 to assist with correct jaw alignment and the treatment of TMJ dysfunction. Find out more on this service in our Richmond Fine Dentistry site.

It is recommended that you seek professional medical advice or assessment at the TMJ Relief Clinic if popping, grating or clicking sounds persist, or if your child develops other symptoms such as:

  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • pain or swelling around, or when touching the TMJ
  • ear pain
  • hearing loss
  • tinnitus – a constant ringing in the ears.

When should I be concerned about my child’s TMJ disorder?

Concerns about your child’s symptoms should be raised when:

Your child is suffering from persistent muscle pain. Pain in the face, jaw joints, around the ear, and sometimes even in the neck and shoulders can limit your child’s ability to smile, talk, yawn, bite, chew and sometimes, breathe. If pain is left untreated for prolonged periods, the muscles can spasm, locking the jaw shut, or wide open. If this happens, immediate assessment by a qualified medical practitioner at the TMJ Relief Clinic, dental clinic or emergency department is recommended. In some cases, jaw manipulation under sedation will be required for relief.

Very young children are showing symptoms of TMJ Disorder.  Especially if the child in pain and the joint is swollen. This can be a sign that the jaw is asymmetrical or that a malocclusion is present. Malocclusion is where the teeth of the two jaws don’t meet correctly and is often the result of the use of dummies (pacifiers) or thumb sucking. Malocclusion is quite common in children and can be corrected with a range of dental treatments depending on severity.

What if I choose to do nothing for my child’s TMJ disorder?

Whilst there are no official Australian records on the numbers of people affected with TMJ Disorder, estimates in the USA suggest that the incidence of TMD is as high as 10% in the adult population. TMJ disorders require professional intervention to treat the sometimes complex causes and provide relief. TMD identified and remedied at an early age can prevent future dental damage and result in lifelong relief.

What should I do if my child has the signs of children’s TMJ Disorder?

If you suspect your child may be experiencing TMJ symptoms, book an assessment with us today for a comprehensive assessment and review of treatment options.