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

In this post, our Orangeville dentists explain possible causes of jaw pain and what to do with those sore joints.

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 a common cause of jaw pain. The temporomandibular joint, which connects your jaw to the skull's temporal bones near your temple, plays a vital role in everyday activities like talking, breathing, and eating.

When there are problems with the muscles in your face and jaw, it can lead to TMJ Disorders. If the condition progresses and you begin to feel pain in this area, it may eventually limit your ability 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

Even though we receive various routine vaccines during childhood that have effectively eliminated certain diseases, there is still a chance of contracting illnesses that can lead to jaw pain and other symptoms.

Tetanus is a bacterial infection that can cause stiffness or tightness in the jaw muscles. This severe condition may require weeks of hospitalization.

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

If you experience persistent pain, tooth loss, or difficulties with chewing, opening, and closing your mouth after an injury, it may be necessary to consult your dentist. Over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen can provide temporary relief, and dental treatment may be recommended if needed.

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 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

Anaerobic osteomyelitis is a bone infection that specifically affects the lower jaw, known as the mandible. If left untreated, this condition can restrict blood flow to the jaw and cause harm to the bone tissue.

How can I get rid of jaw pain?

At-Home Care

  • 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)
  • 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.

Dental Care

If you continue to experience jaw pain despite trying home remedies, it's advisable to schedule an appointment with your dentist.

At Orangeville Dental Centre, our dentists will carefully assess your symptoms, conduct a thorough oral examination, and discuss various treatment options with you. Based on your specific needs, they will develop a customized treatment plan that may involve measures like using a mouthguard or other suitable approaches.

In rare instances where severe pain persists and structural issues in the jaw are present without finding relief from other remedies or treatments, oral surgery for TMJ Disorder may be recommended as a potential solution.

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

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(519) 941-7890