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What Jaw Pain Means: Causes & Treatment

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There are a variety of causes for jaw pain, including toothaches and TMJ disorder. Occasionally, jaw pain can stem from a more serious condition. In this post, our Thornhill dentists explain some possible causes of jaw pain along with at-home remedies for mild jaw pain. 

What causes jaw pain?

There is a range of issues and conditions that can cause jaw pain. If you are experiencing jaw pain you should always consult with a dentist or doctor to have the underlying cause diagnosed. Here are a few common causes of jaw pain: 

TMJ Disorders

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.

TMJ Disorders occur when there is an issue with your facial and jaw muscles. If the disorder advances to a severe state after you start to experience 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
  • Dizziness
  • 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.

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
  • Bruises
  • Pain
  • Swelling

Depending on the injury, you may need to see your dentist if the pain doesn’t go away, you are missing teeth, or you are unable to chew or open and close your mouth. Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen and gel ice packs may also help relieve the pain. 

Dental Issues

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

  • Fractured or broken tooth 
  • 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 or crowded teeth

These problems should be addressed as soon as possible to avoid further complications. A broken or fractured tooth is considered a dental emergency,  so you should see your dentist right away.

Tetanus

Though rare due to routine vaccinations, it is still possible to contract tetanus. Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, is a bacterial infection that can cause your jaw muscles to stiffen or feel tight. You should seek medical attention immediately if you experience an unusually stiff jaw, particularly if accompanied by other muscle spasms, fever, and trouble swallowing. 

Cysts or Tumours

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 or seek medical attention. 

At Dentistry On GreenLane, 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.

If you are experiencing jaw pain contact our Thornhill dentists to book an appointment today.

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