The Conditions That Cause Jaw Pain
While some causes of jaw pain may be mild and not of any major concern, other causes can create serious issues for you and your health.
TMJ Disorders (TMD)
When we see patients with jaw pain, many of them are experiencing 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.
TMJ Disorders occur when there is an issue with your facial and jaw muscles. As this disorder begins to wear on the joint you may notice that you have a decline in the amount of movement.
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.
Preventable Diseases & Infections
Though we take many routine vaccines in childhood that have fortunately gotten rid of diseases, it’s still possible to get diseases 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 can result in spending weeks in hospital.
Facial or Dental Trauma
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 dental trauma has caused issues with chewing or talking or you are experiencing pain that won't go away then you should contact your dentist right away. Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen may help, in addition to dental treatment if necessary.
Dental Conditions or Issues
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 or broken teeth are a dental emergency and should be examined by your dentist as soon as possible. Until then, keep the tooth that hurts clean and try rinsing with warm water.
Cysts or Tumours
Jaw pain may be caused by tumours or cysts. While not usually cancerous they typically still need to be surgically removed in order to relieve the pain.
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 Infection)
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.
Treating Jaw Pain At-Home
How can you relieve jaw pain yourself?
- 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.
- Massage your jaw and neck in the areas experiencing pain.
- Avoid caffeine (which can potentially contribute to muscle tension)
When should you visit the dentist for jaw pain?
If you have tried all of the home remedies with no success then you should reach out to your dentist for an examination.
At Say Cheese Dentistry, 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.