Causes of Jaw Pain
If you are experiencing jaw pain, it may be a simple cavity or bruise from playing sports, but it may also be a more serious concern such as TMJ disorders, tumours, or trauma. Below, our dental team would like to share some possible reasons for your jaw pain and what can be done to treat it.
TMJ (Temporomandibular) Disorders
The temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull and can experience a great deal of pain in patients suffering from TMJ disorders. This joint is crucial to the movement of your jaw for everyday acts such as eating, talking and breathing.
TMJ Disorders occur when there is an issue with your facial and jaw muscles. If you do not seek treatment for this right away it can easily lead to a restriction of jaw movement.
Here are some of the typical causes of TMJ disorders:
- Medical conditions or illnesses such as arthritis
- Inflammation in the muscles surrounding your jaw
- Jaw misalignment
- Injury to the jaw
Here are some of the symptoms most commonly mentioned by our patients:
- Pain or ache around your jaw, face or ears
- Persistent headaches
- Locking or popping in your jaw
- Vision problems
- Ringing in ears
If you have been experiencing any of the signs above, contact your dentist to book an examination and discuss potential treatment options to relieve your pain and manage the condition. Sometimes, prescription drugs or surgery may be necessary to treat the issue.
Infections or Diseases
Though many of us received vaccines in childhood that have helped to prevent a wide range of serious diseases, it’s still possible to get conditions that can 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 could result in spending weeks in hospital while your recover.
As with the other bones in your body, your jaw can become fractured or dislocated. If you have taken a blow to the jaw, you may experience one or more of the following:
- Loose or missing teeth
If you are unable to manage your pain on your own, you are missing teeth, or you’re unable to chew or open and close your mouth. Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen may help, in addition to any necessary dental treatment.
Dental Concerns / Conditions
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
These problems should be addressed as soon as possible, and fractured teeth are dental emergencies, so you should see your dentist right away. Until then, keep the tooth that hurts clean and try rinsing with warm water.
Cancerous or Non-Cancerous Tumours / Cysts
Not typically cancerous, odontogenic cysts or tumours can quickly begin to impact your teeth. Surgery may be required to remove them.
Painful Cluster Headaches
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.
Osteomyelitis / Bone Infections
A type of infection that occurs in the bone, this condition can impact your mandible (lower jaw). Referred to as anaerobic osteomyelitis, it can cut off the blood supply to your jaw and damage bone tissue if left untreated.
What can I do to help relieve the jaw pain I am experiencing?
At-Home Pain Relief Options
- 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)
Professional Dental Care and Treatment
If your jaw pain persists after at-home remedies, make an appointment with your dentist.
At Arthur Dental, our dentists will discuss your symptoms with you, complete a comprehensive oral examination, explain possible treatment options, and develop a custom 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.