WHAT IS JAW PAIN?
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 dental or medical professional. 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 dental or medical professional may offer support and/or treatment to remedy the condition.
What Causes Jaw Pain?
- Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder (TMJ)
- Sinus problems/Headaches
- Trigeminal Neuralgia
- Wisdom Tooth
If your wisdom teeth become impacted, they can develop at the wrong angle and press against the jawbone and adjacent teeth. This can cause wisdom tooth pain in the jaw, as well as infection, swelling and redness around the gum.
- Diseases - Mumps and Tetanus
- Dental Problems (Toothache, cavities, and others)
One of the most common causes of jaw pain, TMJ affects approximately 1 in 8 people at some point in their lifetime. This condition happens when the ‘hinges’ on each side of your jaw, which are called temporomandibular joints are damaged or strained.
TMJ pain feels like a tender jaw ache, or a clicking jaw, which feels more painful when you are moving your jaw during eating, speaking, or yawning. The ache may also radiate to the ears, head, neck, or shoulders.
If the sinuses become infected, they can become congested 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 experts still aren’t sure if these conditions are linked.
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.’
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.
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 jawbone 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 dental professional to properly diagnose and treat your jaw pain. While you’re waiting for an appointment, make sure your oral home care is adequate. Use warm salt water or an antibacterial mouthwash and brush your teeth using an antibacterial toothpaste like stannous fluoride to fight gingivitis.
A healthy oral hygiene routine can help to prevent some developing dental problems :
- Brush 2X/day for the dentist-recommended 2 minutes. Consider switching to an electric toothbrush like the Oral-B iO9 to remove 100% more plaque bacteria than a regular manual toothbrush.
- Floss at least 1X/day. Pair traditional string floss floss Oral-B Glide Pro-Health Deep Clean with an oral irrigator like the Oral-B Water Flosser Advanced to help wash away any leftover plaque and food debris.
- Add an anticavity rinse to your daily routine. Oral-B Cavity Protection Special Care Oral Rinse is scientifically formulated with fortifying fluoride to help strengthen enamel and protect against cavities.
- See your dental professional at least 2X/year for professional cleanings and checkups.
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 options for jaw pain relief treatment.
If you are suffering from TMJ disorder 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 disorder is severe and 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 medical professional 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 can sometimes exacerbate your jaw pain.
- chewy foods
Eating chewy hard foods such as nuts, seeds, cereals, or candies can cause unnecessary strain on your jaw and make the 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.
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 of the gum.
This blog has been reviewed and approved
by Dr Robert Lee, a dental professional of 35 years
Dr Robert Lee
Dr Robert Lee is a dentist with more than thirty years of experience in the industry.
Graduating from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Dental Surgery and from the University of New South Wales with a Master of Business Administration, Robert’s career has taken him all over the world – from Australia to Germany to his current position in Chicago, where he is the founder of Denticus Inc., offering strategic dental consulting.
Robert has previously worked for Procter & Gamble as the Director of Professional Scientific Relations in both the Cincinnati and Sydney offices, being responsible for external relations and scientific exchange with leading professional associations and industry thought leaders. He was also responsible for all technical and scientific training for the professional teams in North America and Australia.
Robert has been assisting the team at Oral-B by fact-checking and reviewing our blogs on dental health. You can find a list of the blogs Robert has approved below: