What causes jaw pain?
Jaw pain may be a sign of a more serious condition or a dental problem like a toothache or TMJ disorder.
One of the most common causes of jaw pain is TMJ Disorder. The temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull (located just below your temple, in front of your ear). This hinge plays a large role in your everyday life, allowing you to talk, breathe and eat.
When your facial and jaw muscles aren't working properly, TMJ disorders can develop. You may eventually lose the ability to move the joint if the disorder worsens to a point where it is painful in this area.
Causes of TMJ Disorders can include:
- Certain conditions or illnesses such as arthritis
- Inflammation in the muscles surrounding your jaw
- Misalignment of the jaw
- Injury to the jaw
Symptoms of TMJ Disorder may include:
- Pain or ache around your jaw, face or ears
- Constant headaches
- Locking or popping in your jaw
- Vision problems
- Ringing in ears
If you suspect a problem with your TMJ, see your dentist so he or she can recommend treatment or exercises. Sometimes, prescription drugs or surgery may be required to address the issue.
Though we receive many routine vaccines as children that have thankfully eliminated diseases, it is still possible to contract diseases that cause jaw pain and other symptoms.
Tetanus is a bacterial infection that can cause your jaw muscles to stiffen or feel tight. This serious condition can result in spending weeks in hospital.
Just like other bones in your body, your jaw can become fractured or dislocated. After taking a blow to the jaw, you may experience:
- Loose or missing teeth
If the pain does not go away, you are missing teeth, or you are unable to chew or open and close your mouth, you may need to see your dentist. In addition to dental treatment, over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen may be beneficial.
A variety of dental issues can lead to a sore jaw. These can include:
- Fractured or crowded teeth
- Toothache (typically with an abscess or cavity as the underlying cause)
- Teeth grinding
- Gum disease (which can cause your jaw bone to become damaged)
- Wisdom teeth erupting
- Misaligned teeth
Fragmented teeth are a dental emergency, so you should visit your dentist as soon as possible to have these issues taken care of. As a temporary measure, try rinsing with warm water and keep the sore tooth clean.
Cysts or Tumors
Odontogenic cysts or tumours, which are typically not cancerous, can quickly start to affect your teeth. To get rid of them, surgery might be necessary.
Cluster headaches are one of the most painful types of headaches, causing pain around or behind one eye, with pain radiating to the jaw.
This condition, which is an infection in the bone, can affect your mandible (lower jaw). If left untreated, anaerobic osteomyelitis, as it is also known, can sever the blood supply to your jaw and harm bone tissue.
How can I get rid of jaw pain?
- Apply a warm, wet washcloth or ice pack covered in cloth to your jaw (10 minutes on, 10 minutes off)
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
- Rub the affected joint. Massage the joint with your fingers, pressing the sore areas of your jaw and moving to the side of your neck.
- Avoid caffeine (which can potentially contribute to muscle tension)
If your jaw pain persists after at-home remedies, make an appointment with your dentist.
Our dentists at Cloverdale Dental Group will talk with you about your symptoms, perform a thorough oral examination, explain potential treatment options, and develop a unique treatment plan that may include a mouthguard or other measures depending on your needs.
In rare cases, oral surgery for TMJ Disorder may be recommended to correct the problem for those with severe pain that suffer from structural problems in their jaw and haven’t found relief with other remedies or treatments.