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

Jaw pain can be caused by a dental problem such as a toothache, TMJ disorder, or a more serious condition. Our Bolton dentists explain possible causes of jaw pain and what to do about sore joints in this post.

What causes jaw pain?

Jaw pain can indicate 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. The temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to your skull's temporal bones (located just below your temple, 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 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.

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:

  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Bruises
  • Pain
  • Swelling

Depending on the severity of the injury, you may need to see a dentist if the pain persists, you are missing teeth, or you are unable to chew or open and close your mouth. In addition to dental treatment, over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen may be beneficial.

Dental 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

These issues should be addressed as soon as possible, and fractured teeth are dental emergencies, so see your dentist as soon as possible. Until then, keep the painful tooth clean and rinse with warm water.

Cysts or Tumors

Not typically cancerous, odontogenic cysts or tumours 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

This condition can affect your mandible because it is a type of infection that occurs in the bone (lower jaw). If left untreated, anaerobic osteomyelitis can cut off blood supply to your jaw and damage bone tissue.

How can I get rid of jaw pain?

Here are some things you can try that might help 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.

Our dentists at Dentistry in Bolton will discuss your symptoms with you, perform a thorough oral examination, explain possible treatment options, and create 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 Bolton dentists to book an appointment today.

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