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Face and Jaw Surgery

Jaw surgery and possible problems from it

11/28/2006

Question:

My jaws were broken at age 5 and I had surgery to correct it. I`m now 39 and have had some problems with my chin locking up when I yawn. Its painful and goes away after awhile, kind of like a `charlie horse` but under my chin. It is the same area of the scars and I just thought that maybe it could be scar tissue from the surgery many years ago. I just assumed everyone had that same trouble from time to time and just ignored it. After speaking with my husband, he tells me he has never had the same kind of trouble. Sometimes it hurts for no reason and other times I dread having to yawn because I know the pain that may come with it. Is it possible that scar tissue is causing my problems or could it be something else?

Answer:

I know exactly what you are talking about! I am also 39 and I get those "charlie horse" pains under my tongue every once in a while when I yawn. It must have been something in the water our mothers drank back in 1967. 

All kidding aside, this is probably not related to the surgery you had done when you were a child.  The pain results from irregular contraction (spasm) of the genioglossus and geniohyoid muscles.  The mechanism is exactly the same as any cramp in any other muscle in the body.  When we yawn, we have a tendency to contract and elevate the tongue.  This causes contraction of its muscles, which can trigger the spasm and pain. 

One trick that you can try is to consciously relax your tongue when yawning, letting it just sit flat on the floor of the mouth.  This typically prevents the spasm, and after a while, it becomes a habit and the condition disappears. 

If it persists, you can try Botox injections of the offending muscle.  Yes, the same stuff used to eliminate fine wrinkles on the face.  You would need to see somebody who is familiar with the use of this product, and all you will have to do is go to his/her office and provide a good yawn to trigger the spasm.  Once the offending muscle or muscles are identified, it is just a matter of injecting the Botox directly into them, and this will prevent them from going into spasm after 2 or 3 days.  One thing to remember is that the effect of the injection will only last from 6 to 9 months, at which time you may need to have it done again. 

I hope this information helps you.

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Response by:

Guillermo  E Chacon, DDS Guillermo E Chacon, DDS
Formerly:
Associate Professor of Dentistry
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University