‘Why does my jaw hurt?’ is a common health complaint we hear on a regular basis. Everyone suffers from a sore jaw at some point in their lives. The reasons for jaw pain range from simple, easily treatable situations to complex problems that require advanced treatment plans. This article focuses on these causes and goes into more detail to help you determine the root of your jaw pain.
Here are five common causes of jaw pain:
- cavities (make an appointment with your dentist if you suspect your pain is a result of dental issues)
- cracked teeth
- gum disease
- * sinus issues (If you are struggling with your paranasal sinuses, you can experience pain and pressure which can disguise itself as jaw pain)
- jaw-clenching and teeth-grinding (can be caused by stress)
- migraines or cluster headaches (blood vessels and nerves connect to create intense discomfort)
* Your doctor can help you determine whether your jaw pain is due to sinus problems. If you suspect this is the case, you may also experience symptoms such as dizziness, post-nasal drip or forehead pressure.
Why Does My Jaw Hurt? – Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ)
Ask your doctor if severe headaches persist. Temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ) is one of the most common causes of jaw pain. The temporomandibular joint connects the mandible to the skull. Symptoms include a tender jaw, painful chewing, difficulty opening the jaw and a clicking noise in your ear when you open your jaw.
Misaligned teeth and bites can cause temporomandibular joint problems, so you may benefit from having braces fitted. Successful TMJ treatment can include orthodontic assistance.
Why Does My Jaw Hurt On One Side?
TMJ is not overly common, but can lead to pain on one or both sides of the jaw. If there is no clear reason for your pain, your doctor will want to rule out TMJ.
Why Does My Jaw Hurt? – Trigeminal Neuralgia
Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic disease that leads to abnormal pressure on the trigeminal nerve. This can prevent the nerve from working properly, causing severe pain. Injuries or abnormalities of the brain can also cause this condition.
Trigeminal neuralgia is most common in women and people over the age of 50. The primary symptom is severe pain that occurs on one or both sides of the face. The pain can be short but excruciating. It can occur when you touch your face or move facial muscles. The pain feels like a shock sensation and is often described as a constant pain or burning sensation. It can cause convulsions of the face, in episodes which last from seconds to minutes and occur in the lower jaw, cheeks or mouth and may worsen over time.
Trigeminal neuralgia does not respond to over-the-counter medications, your doctor will recommend the best treatment for you, including prescription medications.
Why Does My Jaw Hurt? – Infections
If your jawbone gets infected during dental surgery or you have serious dental health problems, this may be the cause of your jaw pain. This is a rare but serious type of bone infection that occurs when bacteria invade the bone.
The infection can spread and lead to bone decay. These conditions can also affect the health of your immune system and increase your risk of further complications. Seek medical attention if you have the following symptoms:
- increased jaw pain
- tenderness in your teeth, gums or jaw
- redness or heat in painful areas
- fatigue or exhaustion
- bad breath
- difficulty opening or closing your mouth
- swelling or numbness around your jaw, lips or mouth
Why Does My Jaw Hurt? – Tumours And Cysts
Tumours and cysts differ slightly. Tumours are tissue masses, while cysts contain fluid.
These are not aways carcinogenic, but can have an impact on oral health. They can grow and cause teeth to move and aggravate bone and tissue in the jaw and mouth.
- persistent pain may occur in the jaw
- a red or white spot in the mouth
- open sores or bleeding
- nodules, lumps or growths
- a hoarse feeling in the throat
- difficulty swallowing or moving the jaw
- growths in the teeth or jaw
- swelling in the face
Treatment For Jaw Pain
Treatment depends on the cause of the jaw pain, but early detection of a tumour or cyst can increase the chances of successful treatment.
Most doctors recommend non-invasive treatments for jaw pain. If you still have jaw pain after trying these remedies, you should talk to your dentist or doctor. You may need further interventions to find the cause and a relief from this pain.
A doctor will ask you about your symptoms to diagnose jaw pain and perform a physical and psychological examination. Jaw surgery is only recommended to resolve severe cases of TMJ or pain.
Ice or Heat
For immediate relief, apply an ice pack for 10 minutes to your face. Another option is to run warm water over a washcloth and apply it to the jaw area. Heat relaxes overactive jaw muscles and relieves pain. You can buy heat and ice packs in pharmacies or online.
Over-the-counter medications such as anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen) may help relieve pain. Gentle jaw massages could also help. Your doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxant.
Try stress-relieving techniques to reduce the compression of the jaw. These can help you reduce your jaw pain if it is caused by stress. These include yoga and meditation.
Avoid Chewy Foods
Foods that are chewy or crunchy can put more strain on your temporomandibular joint, which can cause pain and discomfort. Foods to avoid include apples, beef and chewing gum.
Your morning cup of Joe can contribute to your muscle tension by increasing caffeine. Avoiding large amounts of caffeinated drinks.
If your jaw pain is caused by something like excessive teeth-grinding or jaw-clenching, then your dentist may recommend a mouth guard. A mouthguard is a support that is worn between the upper and lower teeth and sits comfortably in place when your mouth is closed. You can buy one at a pharmacy or have one made by a dentist to fit you better. Wearing one at bedtime can keep you from grinding your teeth at night. If your pain does not respond to mouth guards, your dentist can prescribe muscle relaxers to relieve jaw tension.
You may benefit from Botox, a cosmetic injection which relaxes your muscles. Injecting jaw muscles with botulinum toxin (found in Botox) prevents your jaw muscles from compressing, which can help relieve jaw pain caused by TMJ. You may need several Botox injections within a period of a few months.