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

If you have pain in your jaw then you may be experiencing a number of possible issues such as toothaches, gum disease or TMJ disorders. Today, our Meteghan dentists share some of the common causes of jaw pain and ways that it can be treated.

The Many Possible Causes of Jaw Pain

If you have jaw pain then you may be suffering from one of many different dental concerns including TMJ disorders, diseases and dental conditions.

TMD / 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). You use this hinge to use your mouth for all of the everyday things that you do with your mouth including talking and breathing.

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.

The Causes of TMJ Disorders:

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

The Symptoms of TMJ Disorders:

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

If you are considered to suffer from TMD then your dentist will likely recommend a variety of exercises and other ways to manage the pain. Sometimes, prescription drugs or surgery may be required to address the issue.

Infectious 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 / Injuries

Accidents happen and accidents can lead to injuries. After taking a blow to the jaw, you may experience:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • 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 Conditions / Oral Habits

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

  • Fractured or crowded teeth
  • Toothache
  • Teeth grinding
  • Gum disease
  • 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. If you suffer from a dental concern then you should keep your tooth clean but rinsing it with warm water often while you wait to see the dentist.

Cysts or Tumours (Cancerous or Non-Cancerous)

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

Severe 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.

Bone Infections (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 the blood supply to your jaw and damage bone tissue if left untreated.

The Different Ways to Treat Jaw Pain

Relieving pain in the jaw at home.

  • 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)

Seeking professional dental care.

If you try all of the above and you still seem to have issues with jaw pain please contact your dentist as soon as you can.

At Acadian Smiles, 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, your dentist may end up recommending oral surgery if nothing else has helped and you are still experiencing persistent and severe jaw pain.

Do you have pain in your jaw or a toothache that you can't kick? Contact our Meteghan dentists to request an appointment today.

Providing Oral Health Care in Meteghan

Our dental team at Acadian Smiles is committed to providing a range of dental services tailored to the needs of our patients. 

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(902) 645-3011