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What Jaw Pain Means: Causes & Treatment

There can be a variety of conditions behind severe jaw pain, so what should you do? In this post, our Sudbury dentists share the most common causes of jaw pain and what you can do to get some relief.

What are the typical causes of jaw pain?

Jaw pain can indicate a dental issue such as a toothache, TMJ Disorder, or perhaps a more serious condition. No matter what the possible cause is, it is important to seek dental care as soon as possible.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorders

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:

  • Injury to the jaw
  • Misalignment of the jaw
  • Certain conditions or illnesses such as arthritis
  • Inflammation in the muscles surrounding your jaw

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Vision problems
  • Ringing in ears
  • Constant headaches
  • Locking or popping in your jaw
  • Pain or ache around your jaw, face or ears

If you suspect a problem with your TMJ, see your dentist so he or she can recommend treatment or exercises. If exercise doesn't;t work then your dentist may recommend prescription pain medications or surgical treatment.

Diseases & Infections

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 & Injuries

All bones in your body can break or experience damage and your jawbone is no exception. Some of the symptoms you may notice include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruises
  • Loose or missing teeth

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 & Habits

Some of the common factors behind jaw pain include:

  • Teeth grinding
  • Fractured or crowded teeth
  • Toothache (typically with an abscess or cavity as the underlying cause)
  • Misaligned teeth
  • Wisdom teeth erupting
  • Gum disease (which can cause your jaw bone to become damaged)

Broken teeth are a dental emergency and you should contact a dentist for treatment 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. If you experience these then you will need surgery to remove the growths.

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 (Bone Infections)

This is an infection that typically targets 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 can you treat jaw pain when it develops?

Caring For Jaw Pain 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)

Dental Care For Your Jaw

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

At Sudbury Dental Group, 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. 

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.

If you have unexplained jaw pain and need some relief, contact our Sudbury dentists to request an appointment.

Oral Health Care in Sudbury

The dental team at Sudbury Dental Group is committed to providing a range of dental services tailored to the needs of our patients. 

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