What Causes Jaw Pain and How to Treat It?

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Jaw pain is relatively common and can affect you at any point in your life. Whether it’s aching, soreness, tooth sensitivity, or a sharp pain, it’s never pleasant to experience jaw pain in its many forms.

If the pain has been going on for more than a few days, you’ll probably want to visit your health adviser. While jaw pain sometimes goes away on its own, it may be caused by issues with the joints, nerves, teeth, and more.

After learning the root cause of your jaw pain, your health adviser may offer support and/or treatment to remedy the condition.

What Causes Jaw Pain?

1. Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder (TMJ)

One of the most common causes of jaw pain, TMJ affects approximately 1 in 8 people at some point in their lifetime. TMJ damages the ‘hinges’ on each side of your jaw, which are called temporomandibular joints.

TMJ pain feels like a tender jaw ache, or a clicking jaw, which feels more painful when you are moving your jaw during eating or speaking. The ache may also radiate to the ears, head, neck, or shoulders.

2. Sinus problems/Headaches

If the sinuses become infected, they can become swollen which prevents the drainage of mucus. This condition is called sinusitis, which causes upper jaw pain.

Cluster headaches, one of the most painful types of headaches, can also cause a painful jaw. Headaches and TMJ usually go hand in hand, but doctors still aren’t sure if these conditions are linked.

3. Trigeminal Neuralgia

The trigeminal nerve is responsible for sensation inside the face and helps with motor functions for biting and chewing. If a blood vessel presses too closely to the trigeminal nerve, it can cause very severe, sudden pain – sometimes described as ‘a jolt of electricity.’

4. Wisdom Tooth If your wisdom teeth become impacted, they can develop at the wrong angle and press against the jaw. This can cause wisdom tooth pain in the jaw, as well as infection, swelling, and redness around the jaw.

5. Diseases - Mumps and Tetanus

Mumps is a contagious viral infection that swells the side of your mouth, causes pain and makes it hard to move your jaw.

Tetanus is a bacterial infection that can develop through a cut or scratch on the skin. One of the earliest signs of tetanus is a stiff jaw, accompanied by muscle spasms and lock jaw.

6. Dental Problems (Toothache, cavities and others)

Issues with the teeth can be wide-ranging and often result in jaw pain. Some of the dental problems causing jaw pain include:

  • Toothache, usually due to tooth decay or an abscess

  • Gum disease (periodontitis), which can seriously affect the jaw bone if left untreated

  • Bruxism, a condition causing teeth grinding or clenching of the jaw

  • Malocclusion (uneven bite) occurs when the upper and lower teeth are not uniformly in contact.

It’s important to speak with your dentist to properly diagnose and treat your jaw pain. While you’re waiting for an appointment, you can try swilling out your mouth with warm salt water to help kill bacteria and numb the pain.

A healthy oral hygiene routine can help to prevent developing dental problems. Check out the Oral-B range to find the best toothpastes, electric toothbrushes, mouthwashes, and floss for you.

Medical Treatment for Jaw Pain

If you’re wondering how to relieve your jaw pain, you can find some comfort in the fact that treatment is usually non-invasive and may simply go away on its own.

However, if the symptoms persist, you should consult your doctor and consider the following methods for jaw pain relief treatment.

  • Mouth-guard If you are suffering from TMJ or bruxism, you may be prescribed a mouth-guard to wear at night to prevent you from grinding your teeth or clicking your jaw. This is to prevent serious damage to the jaw joint.

  • Muscle relaxers Muscle relaxers, such as diazepam, can help to ease the muscles surrounding the jaw and face to prevent jaw clenching and spasms.

  • Botox® Injections Injected into the facial muscles, Botox can relieve TMJ pain, lock jaw, headaches, jaw ache, and teeth grinding.

  • Jaw Surgery Surgery may be considered if your TMJ symptoms are prolonged, severely painful, and restricting you from daily routines, such as eating, speaking, or opening your mouth fully.

Home Care and Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Jaw Pain

While it’s important to speak to your doctor for effective jaw pain treatment, these tips and tricks for jaw pain relief can help you to manage the symptoms while you wait for an appointment.

  • Yoga and Meditation You can take guided yoga or meditation classes to help ease stress which may be the root of your jaw pain.

  • Avoid Chewy Foods Eating chewy, hard foods such as nuts, seeds, cereals, or candy can cause unnecessary strain on your jaw and make TMJ symptoms worse.

  • Over-the-counter medication Anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen can help to ease the discomfort of a painful jaw, while reducing swelling.

  • Prescription medicines Pain relief or muscle relaxants may be prescribed by your doctor to provide relief from jaw pain and teeth clenching.

  • Cold compresses You can make a cold compress to relief jaw pain by putting ice cubes inside a plastic bag, before wrapping in a soft towel. Apply for 10-20 minutes and repeat if needed.

  • Jaw pain relief exercises Try to gently massage your jaw to relief discomfort, or if you feel a yawn coming on, try to support your jaw using your hand. This can prevent painful yawns caused by the jaw stretching too wide.

FAQS

Why does my jaw hurt on one side?

Jaw pain only affecting one side may be due to mumps, a viral infection causing swelling around the face. It could also be due to a cavity, dental abscess, TMJ disorder, or sinusitis.

What causes jaw pain near the ear?

A common cause of jaw pain near the ear is TMJ disorder, which not only causes pain and stiffness on jaw joint, but also the muscles surrounding it and the inner ear.

Can wisdom teeth cause jaw pain?

An impacted wisdom tooth may develop at the wrong angle, causing jaw pain, infection, swelling and/or redness around the jaw.

Sources:

https://www.healthline.com/health/jaw-pain#how-to-find-relief

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tmj/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350945