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

When you are suffering from jaw pain it can have an effect on all areas of your life which makes it important to have it diagnosed and treated quickly. In this post, our Toronto dentists share some of the most commonly seen causes of jaw pain and how you can help treat and prevent this issue.

Common Causes of Jaw Pain or Discomfort

If you are suffering from jaw pain then you in fact be experiencing the symptoms of painful conditions such as TMJ disorder.

TMJ Disorders Causing Pain and a Lack of Movement

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). This hinge plays a large role in your everyday life, allowing you to talk, breathe and eat.

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.

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.

Diseases Resulting in Jaw Pain & Other Serious Symptoms

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. Even without serious complications, this disease can cause you to spend many weeks in the hospital.

Trauma or Injury to the Face Resulting in Jaw Pain

Just like other bones in your body, your jaw can become fractured or dislocated. Some of the issues you may face after getting hit in the face include:

  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Bruises
  • Pain
  • Swelling

while some injuries to the face will heal on their own without intervention, others may be more serious and require dental care as soon as possible. Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen may help, in addition to dental treatment if necessary.

Other Potential Causes Behind Your Jaw Pain

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

  • Fractured or crowded teeth
  • Toothache (typically with an abscess or cavity as the underlying cause)
  • Teeth grinding
  • Gum disease (which can cause your jaw bone to become damaged)
  • 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. You should be sure to rinse the tooth often with warm water while you are waiting to visit the dentist.

Facial Cysts or Tumours

Not typically cancerous, odontogenic cysts or tumours can quickly begin to impact your teeth. If you have any types of growth your dentist may recommend removal in order to relieve the pain that you are experiencing and prevent any further complications.

Headaches Focused Around Your Eyes and Jaw

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 (Bone Disease)

A type of infection that occurs in the bone, mainly affecting your lower jaw. Referred to as anaerobic osteomyelitis, it can cut off the blood supply to your jaw and damage bone tissue if left untreated.

How You Can Relieve Jaw Pain

What You Can Do 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)

Professional Dental Care

You should reach out to your dentist if you notice new, recurring jaw pain or if you have been unable to find relief.

At Bay Elm Dental, 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. 

If you are unable to find relief with the non-invasive options listed above then your dentist may recommend considering oral surgery.

If you need to have jaw pain diagnosed, contact our Toronto dentists to request an examination today.

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