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

If you are experiencing jaw pain then you may be suffering the symptoms of tooth decay, TMJ disorders or other dental conditions. In this post, our Kelowna dentists share some of the causes of jaw pain and what some treatment options may be.

Are there different causes of jaw pain?

There are many conditions that can affect your face, jaw and head which can cause pain. Your dentists and medical professionals can help you determine the underlying cause of this pain and offer treatment options.

TMJ Disorders and How They Can Cause Jaw Pain

If you are experiencing jaw pain then it's likely that the culprit may be a TMJ disorder. The temporal bones of your skull, located in the temple, are connected by the temporomandibular joint. This hinge plays a large role in your everyday life, allowing you to talk, breathe and eat.

TMJ Disorders primarily affect the muscles and joints within your face. 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.

If you are experiencing a TMJ disorder some of the causes may 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 disorders 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 are suffering from the painful symptoms of TMJ disorder then you should seek diagnoses and treatment options from your dentist including exercises. Sometimes, prescription drugs or surgery may be required to address the issue.

Diseases Affecting the Jaw

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. Tetanus is a serious condition that can cause an extended stay in the hospital along with painful symptoms.

Trauma to Your Jaw or Face

Just like other bones in your body, your jaw can become fractured or dislocated. If you have received serious trauma to your face or jaw then you may experience:

  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Bruises
  • Pain
  • Swelling

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 Issues and Conditions

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. Until then, keep the tooth that hurts clean and try rinsing with warm water.

Jaw Tumours or Cysts

Not typically cancerous, odontogenic cysts or tumours can quickly begin to impact your teeth. If you have been diagnosed with cysts or tumours then it may be recommended to have them surgically removed.

Cluster Headaches In Jaw and Eyes

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 Infections

A type of infection that occurs in the bone, this condition can impact your mandible (lower jaw). Referred to as anaerobic osteomyelitis, it can cut off the blood supply to your jaw and damage bone tissue if left untreated.

What are some ways to treat and manage jaw pain?

At-Home Care

  • 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

If you have tried all at-home options for pain relief and are still feeling discomfort then you should contact your dentist for an examination.

Your dentist 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 are experiencing jaw pain or any other dental concern please contact our Kelowna dentists to request an appointment.

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Looking for a dentist in Kelowna? We're happily accepting new patients at our dental clinic! Contact us to get started today. 

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