What causes jaw pain?
Jaw pain can indicate a dental issue such as a toothache, TMJ Disorder, or perhaps a more serious condition.
TMJ Disorder is one of the most common causes of jaw pain. The temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to your skull's temporal bones (located just below your temple and in front of your ear). This hinge is important in your daily life because it allows you to talk, breathe, and eat.
TMJ Disorders occur when your facial and jaw muscles are strained. If the disorder worsens after you begin to feel pain in this area, you may eventually be unable to move the joint.
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 lead to weeks in the 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
Fractured teeth are a dental emergency, so you should see your dentist as soon as possible to address these issues. Keep the sore tooth clean and try rinsing with warm water until then.
Cysts or Tumors
Not typically cancerous, odontogenic cysts or tumours can quickly begin to impact your teeth. Surgery may be required to remove them.
One of the most painful types of headache, cluster headaches can result in pain around or behind one eye, with pain radiating to reach 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 using 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 O'Connor Dental Health Group will listen to your concerns, conduct a thorough oral examination, go over your treatment options with you, and create a personalized treatment plan that may involve a mouthguard or other measures, depending on your requirements.
Rarely, oral surgery for TMJ Disorder may be advised to correct the issue for people who experience severe jaw pain and structural issues and have not found relief from their symptoms with other treatments or remedies.