‘Why does my jaw hurt?’ is a common health complaint we hear regularly. Everyone suffers from a sore jaw at some point in their lives. The reasons for jaw pain range from simple, easily treatable situations to complex problems that require advanced treatment plans.
This article focuses on these causes and goes into more detail to help you determine the root of your jaw pain.
Common Causes Of A Painful Jaw
Here are the most common causes of jaw pain:
- cavities (make an appointment with your dentist if you suspect your pain is a result of dental issues)
- cracked teeth
- gum disease
- * sinus issues (If you are struggling with your paranasal sinuses, you can experience pain and pressure, which can disguise themselves as jaw pain)
- jaw-clenching and teeth-grinding (can be caused by stress)
- migraines or cluster headaches (blood vessels and nerves connect to create intense discomfort)
* Your doctor can help you determine whether your jaw pain is due to sinus problems. If you suspect this is the case, you may experience dizziness, post-nasal drip, or forehead pressure.
Painful Jaw Due To Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ)
Ask your doctor if severe headaches persist. Temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ) is one of the most common causes of jaw pain.
The temporomandibular joint connects the mandible to the skull. Symptoms include a tender jaw, painful chewing, difficulty opening the jaw, and a clicking noise in your ear when you open your jaw.
Misaligned teeth and bites can cause temporomandibular joint problems, so you may benefit from fitted braces. Successful TMJ treatment can include orthodontic assistance.
Why Does My Jaw Hurt On One Side?
TMJ is not overly common but can lead to pain on one or both sides of the jaw. If there is no clear reason for your pain, your doctor will want to rule out TMJ.
A Painful Jaw Due To Trigeminal Neuralgia
Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic disease that leads to abnormal pressure on the trigeminal nerve. This can prevent the nerve from working properly, causing severe pain. Injuries or abnormalities of the brain can also cause this condition.
Trigeminal neuralgia is most common in women and people over 50. The primary symptom is severe pain on one or both sides of the face. The pain can be short but excruciating.
It can occur when you touch your face or move facial muscles. The pain feels like a shock sensation and is often described as a constant pain or burning sensation.
It can cause convulsions of the face, in episodes that last from seconds to minutes, in the lower jaw, cheeks, or mouth, and may worsen over time.
Trigeminal neuralgia does not respond to over-the-counter medications; your doctor will recommend the best treatment for you, including prescription medications.
Does My Jaw Hurt Because Of Infections?
If your jawbone gets infected during dental surgery or you have serious dental health problems, this may be the cause of your jaw pain.
This rare but serious type of bone infection occurs when bacteria invade the bone.
The infection can spread and lead to bone decay. These conditions can also affect the health of your immune system and increase your risk of further complications.
Seek medical attention if you have the following symptoms:
- increased jaw pain
- tenderness in your teeth, gums, or jaw
- redness or heat in painful areas
- fatigue or exhaustion
- bad breath
- difficulty opening or closing your mouth
- swelling or numbness around your jaw, lips, or mouth
Can My Jaw Hurt Because Of Tumors And Cysts?
Tumors and cysts differ slightly. Tumors are tissue masses, while cysts contain fluid.
These are not always carcinogenic but can impact oral health. They can grow and cause teeth to move, aggravating bone and tissue in the jaw and mouth.
Ameloblastomas, dental cysts, and odontomas are common tumors or cysts that can affect the mouth.
Not all cysts and tumors exhibit these symptoms, but here are a few common ones to look out for:
- persistent pain may occur in the jaw
- a red or white spot in the mouth
- open sores or bleeding
- nodules, lumps, or growths
- a hoarse feeling in the throat
- difficulty swallowing or moving the jaw
- growths in the teeth or jaw
- swelling in the face
Treatment For Jaw Pain
Treatment depends on the cause of the jaw pain, but early detection of a tumor or cyst can increase the chances of successful treatment.
Most doctors recommend non-invasive treatments for jaw pain. If you still have jaw pain after trying these remedies, you should talk to your dentist or doctor. You may need further interventions to find the cause and relief from this pain.
A doctor will ask you about your symptoms to diagnose jaw pain and perform a physical and psychological examination. Jaw surgery is only recommended to resolve severe cases of TMJ or pain.
Ice or Heat
Apply an ice pack for 10 minutes to your face for immediate relief. Another option is to run warm water over a washcloth and apply it to the jaw area. Heat relaxes overactive jaw muscles and relieves pain. You can buy heat and ice packs in pharmacies or online.
Over-the-counter medications such as anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen) may help relieve pain. Gentle jaw massages could also help. Your doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxant.
Try stress-relieving techniques to reduce the compression of the jaw. These can help you reduce your jaw pain caused by stress. These include yoga and meditation.
Avoid Chewy Foods
Foods that are chewy or crunchy can put more strain on your temporomandibular joint, which can cause pain and discomfort. Foods to avoid include apples, beef, and chewing gum.
Your morning cup of Joe can increase your muscle tension by increasing caffeine. Avoiding large amounts of caffeinated drinks.
If your jaw pain is caused by excessive teeth-grinding or jaw-clenching, your dentist may recommend a mouth guard.
A mouthguard is a support worn between the upper and lower teeth and sits comfortably in place when your mouth is closed.
You can buy one at a pharmacy or have one made by a dentist to fit you better. Wearing one at bedtime can keep you from grinding your teeth at night.
If your pain does not respond to mouth guards, your dentist can prescribe muscle relaxers to relieve jaw tension.
You may benefit from Botox, a cosmetic injection that relaxes your muscles. Injecting jaw muscles with botulinum toxin (found in Botox) prevents your jaw muscles from compressing, which can help relieve jaw pain caused by TMJ.
You may need several Botox injections within a period of a few months.