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

Jaw pain can indicate a dental issue such as a toothache, TMJ Disorder, or perhaps a more serious condition. In this post, our Sault Ste. Marie dentists explain the possible causes of jaw pain and what to do with those sore joints.

What causes jaw pain?

Jaw pain can indicate a dental issue such as a toothache, TMJ Disorder, or perhaps a more serious condition.

TMJ 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 your facial and jaw muscles become strained. If the disorder worsens after you begin to feel pain in this area, you may 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

Even though we, fortunately, receive numerous routine vaccinations as children that have eradicated many diseases, it is still possible to contract illnesses that can result in jaw pain and other symptoms.

The bacterial infection tetanus can make your jaw muscles feel tight or stiff. Weeks in the hospital are possible as a result of this serious condition.

Trauma

Just like other bones in your body, your jaw can become fractured or dislocated. After taking a blow to the jaw, you may experience:

  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Bruises
  • Pain
  • Swelling

You might need to visit the dentist if the pain doesn't go away if you have missing teeth if you can't chew, or if you can't open and close your mouth properly, depending on the injury. In addition to any necessary dental care, over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen may be helpful.

Dental Issues

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

Fragmented teeth are a dental emergency, so you should visit your dentist as soon as possible to have these issues taken care of. As a temporary measure, try rinsing with warm water and keep the sore tooth clean.

Cysts or Tumors

Not typically cancerous, odontogenic cysts or tumours can quickly begin to impact your teeth. Surgery may be required to remove them.

Cluster 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

This condition, a type of infection that occurs in the bone, can affect your mandible (lower jaw). If left untreated, anaerobic osteomyelitis can cut off the blood supply to your jaw and damage bone tissue.

How can I get rid of 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)

Dental Care

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

Our dentists at The Dental Office will discuss your symptoms with you, perform 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.

Oral surgery for TMJ Disorder may be recommended in rare cases to correct the problem for those with severe pain who have structural problems in their jaw and have not found relief with other remedies or treatments.

If you are experiencing jaw pain, contact our Sault Ste. Marie dentists to book an appointment today.

Providing Oral Health Care in Sault Ste. Marie

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

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