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

When you have jaw pain it could be caused by a number of different issues. Here, our Halifax dentists talk about the causes of pain affecting the jaw and what you can do to help relieve it.

The Possible Causes of Jaw Pain

TMJ Disorders (TMD or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder)

TMJ is one of the most commonly seen causes of jaw pain. TMJ disorder is a condition that affects the joint that helps to move your jaw. 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 allows you to do everything you do that includes your mouth including talking, breathing and eating.

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.

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 or Serious Injuries

Like all bones in your body, your jaw may occasionally suffer injuries that can result in jaw pain. Some of the other symptoms your may have after receiving a blow to the jaw include::

  • 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’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

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

  • Fractured or crowded teeth
  • Gum disease (which can cause your jaw bone to become damaged)
  • Wisdom teeth erupting
  • Misaligned teeth
  • Toothache
  • Teeth grinding

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 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 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 (Infection of the Bone)

This type of infection targets the bones in your body. It can impact your mandible (lower jaw). This condition can also cut off the blood supply to your jaw and damage bone tissue if left untreated.

Ways to Relieve Jaw Pain

Treating Your Jaw Pain at Home

There are a few things you can do at home to help remedy jaw pain and symptoms of TMJ.

  • 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.

Seeking Professional Dental Care

If your jaw pain persists after at-home remedies, make an appointment with your dentist.

Your dentist will discuss your jaw pain symptoms with you and possible causes based on your lifestyle and habits.

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.

Do you have undiagnosed jaw pain? Contact our Halifax dentists to request an appointment today.

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