Upper jaw swelling, deteriorating wisdom teeth and TMJ disorder

Last updated: April 2017

I recently turned 60 years old and I am in good health, with a healthy diet, regular exercise, no smoking and an overall positive lifestyle. About six weeks ago, I noticed some pain in my upper left jaw, which led to internal swelling of my mouth, mostly on the left side, but over the course of a week, throughout my mouth. It became slightly painful to ear and I heard "grating" or "grinding" sounds when I chewed. I also developed a swelling in an area about the size of a half-quarter right in front of my left ear, then in front of both ears- exactly in the spot where the temporomandibular joint lies. I also had some minor pain in/around the left ear, then slight pain in/around the right ear (now dissipated). I tried ice packs, but the swelling stayed (it's fairly moderate). The internal mouth swelling subsided, but the exterior swelling remains. I went to my dentist and he took extensive X-rays, including a 180-degree transit of my entire jaw. He said he saw "no signs of pathology" (meaning he didn't see anything to indicate a serious disease), but my upper left side wisdom tooth was severely deteriorating, along with the molar in front of it, both of them likely infected. He also said the same teeth in the upper right jaw were deteriorating, not quite to the same degree. I pointed out the swelling in the TMJ area on both sides- near the same areas of the teeth- and asked him what could be causing it. He didn't make a definitive statement and didn't seem too concerned about the TMJ area swelling, but said all four teeth should come out immediately. I did have all four removed a week ago- but the exterior swelling in the TMJ areas on both sides remains (no pain). NOTE: I have a lifelong "under-bite"- my lower jaw is in front of my upper jaw- the opposite of "normal" and my teeth and jaws have never fit well together. I have read that people with "malocclusions" (under-bites or severe over-bites) are more prone to TMJ disorder. I had never experienced symptoms like these until just recently. My local dentist simply thought my wisdom teeth should be removed- and didn't want to comment much further on TMJ disorder, which I believe I have.

When I went to the oral surgeon- a Dr./DDS who specializes maxillofacial surgery- I asked him if removing these teeth (exactly where the exterior swelling lies) would resolve the swelling. He said "It should". I had him feel both spots on my TMJ joints on each side of my jaw- and he didn't seem alarmed at all, treating the swelling as if it was something minor or incidental. Just before my oral surgery, I had gone to my family doctor (who's been in practice for over 35 years, a man I respect) and described the condition, showing the areas on each side of my upper jaw. He said "I think you have TMJ disorder", although he feels that the removal of the damaged teeth should resolve the swelling. He also didn't seem too concerned about the swelling, making me wonder if I was over-reacting to a minor condition. He said to wait a month or two and the swelling in the TMJ area should dissipate. Again- I'm NOT in ongoing pain, just some minor jaw pain/grating on occasion- but was curious if others have had these symptoms- initial pain, ongoing swelling in the TMJ area, "grating/grinding" sounds and/or problems with wisdom teeth/molars which are deteriorating. I know this is a long note, but I wanted to post as many details as possible. If you know and understand these symptoms, I'd greatly appreciate a comment!! Many thanks!!

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