What Jaw Pain Means: What Causes It and How to Treat It

Posted in General

Dental issues such as TMJ Disorder, toothaches or perhaps a more serious condition can lead to jaw pain. Here, our Burnaby dentists explain potential causes of jaw pain and what you can do about sore joints. 

What causes jaw pain?

Jaw pain may be caused by a dental issue such as a toothache, TMJ Disorder, or perhaps a more serious condition. 

TMJ Disorders

TMJ Disorder is one of the most common causes of jaw pain. Your jaw and the temporal bones of your skull (located just below your temple, in front of your ear) are connected by the temporomandibular joint. This hinge plays an integral role in your daily life, allowing you to talk, eat and breathe. 

When an issue develops with your jaw and facial muscles, TMJ Disorders happen. If you start to experience more pain in this area and the disorder advances to a more severe state, you may eventually be unable to move the joint. 

Causes of TMJ Disorders can include:

  • Certain conditions or illnesses such as arthritis
  • Injury to the jaw
  • Misalignment of the jaw
  • Inflammation in the muscles surrounding your jaw
     

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder may include:

  • Pain or ache around your jaw, face or ears
  • Ringing in ears
  • Vision problems
  • Locking or popping in your jaw
  • Dizziness
  • Constant headaches

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.

Diseases

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.

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:

  • Pain
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Swelling
  • Bruises

Depending on the injury, you may need to see your dentist if the pain doesn’t go away, 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 dental treatment if necessary.

Dental Issues

A variety of dental issues can lead to a sore jaw. These can include:

  • Misaligned teeth
  • Wisdom teeth erupting
  • 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)

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.

Cysts or Tumors

Not typically cancerous, odontogenic cysts or tumors can quickly begin to impact your teeth. Surgery may be required to remove them.

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

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 blood supply to your jaw and damage bone tissue if left untreated.

How can I get rid of jaw pain?

At-Home Care

  • 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)

Dental Care

If your jaw pain persists after at-home remedies, make an appointment with your dentist.

At Oakmount 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. 

Are you experiencing jaw pain? Contact our Burnaby dentists to book an appointment today.

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Location

Oakmount Dental
5266 Oakmount Crescent, Burnaby, BC V5H 4S1 CA

Phone Number

(604) 438-8238

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  • Monday: 12:00 pm - 08:00 am
  • Tuesday: 08:00 am - 05:00 pm
  • Wednesday: 12:00 pm - 08:00 pm
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  • Sunday: Closed

(604) 438-8238