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Dentistry/possible slipped disc in jaw

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Question
In recent months, I've had approximately 8 episodes where my lower teeth will slip over my upper teeth. It occurs during waking hours, generally when I am speaking and is painful to my teeth. The last occurrence resulted in a sheering of a portion of the back side of one of my lower teeth (to the left of the four front lower teeth), which now requires a crown.

I have no pain in the joint of my jaw and no difficulty in chewing. My lower right jawbone has been notably tender for some time. I have no typical popping of my jaw indicative of TMJ.

My dentist mentioned I probably have a disc in my jaw that is slipping, and that I should have an MRI. Should I make an appointment with an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, or would this be jumping the gun?

Answer
Shelley -  It is a little difficult for me to come up with an exact answer for your situation, but often your episodes could be caused by spasms of the jaw muscles.  These spasms are just like having a muscle spasm in a calf muscle or your arm.  When this occurs, the leg or arm does not work smoothly.

I do think that the cause of the muscle problem, if that is what is there, should be evaluated by a board certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon.  Often simple treatments or muscle relaxers are all that are needed.  A simple thing that you can try on your own initially is to simply rinse your mouth with warm salt water, concentrating the rinses along the back sides of the jaw, for about 3-5 minutes, 4-5 times a day.  The warm salt water can often begin to relax the muscles and symptoms greatly decrease.  So try this first and if not successful in reducing the episodes, see the oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

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Joel S. Teig, DMD, Diplomate ABOMS, retired

Expertise

I am a board certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon and I am available to answer questions related to tooth extractions, implant insertion, facial recontruction, facial and oral tumor removal, TMJ dysfunction and various successful treatments, including surgery if all else fails, and occlusal discrepancy requiring orthognathic or jaw surgery.

Experience

Board Certified Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon practicine for over 20 years. Assistant Clincal Professor and State University School of Dentistry.

Organizations
American Dental Association, American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons

Education/Credentials
BA -University of Connecticut DMD - University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine

Awards and Honors
National Honor Society (OKU), Philadelphia County Dental Society, Mosby Book Award, Oral Surgery Honors, Summa Cum Laude

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