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

If you suffer from jaw pain then you know that it can be extremely uncomfortable. There can be a number of different conditions behind jaw pain including toothaches and TMJ disorders. In this post, our Hamilton dentists share some of the potential causes of jaw pain and how it might be treated.

What are some of the common causes of jaw pain?

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

TMJ (Temporomandibular) Disorders

When it comes to jaw pain, our dentists find that patients are commonly experiencing the effects of TMJ disorders. The temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull (located just below your temple, in front of your ear). This is used to help you with everything you do that involves your mouth from eating and breathing, to talking.

TMJ Disorders happen when you are suffering from an issue involving the muscles of your face and jaw. If this goes untreated then you could experience more severe issues leading to a loss of jaw movement down the road.

The typical causes of TMJ may include:

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

Some of the symptoms that you may experience with jaw pain are:

  • 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 experiencing the symptoms of TMJ then your dentists may offer suggestions for treatments and exercises including pain medications and surgery to help provide relief for your condition before it gets worse.

Diseases That Can Affect Your Jaw

Throughout your childhood, you would have received vaccinations that were able to help prevent a number of serious and potentially life-threatening diseases. Now in adulthood, there is still a chance that you can contract certain diseases that can affect the function of your jaw and cause pain.

Tetanus is a bacterial infection that can cause your jaw muscles to stiffen or feel tight. This is a serious disease that can affect you so much that you may end up in the hospital for an extended period of time.

Trauma or Serious Injuries to the Face

Your jaw behaves just as any other bone in your body meaning that it can break or become injured causing pain. After taking a blow to the jaw, you may experience:

  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Bruises
  • Pain
  • Swelling

If you have lost teeth due to the injury or are experiencing severe pain that won't go away then you should contact your dentist for an examination. Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen may help, in addition to dental treatment if necessary.

Dental Issues or Complications

Another possible cause of jaw pain is dental conditions. There are a variety of different dental concerns that may all cause dental pain including:

  • 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.

Cysts or Tumours

Not typically cancerous, odontogenic cysts or tumours can quickly begin to impact your teeth. Depending on the type and location of the cyst or tumour, your dentist may recommend surgery inorder to treat the issue.

Painful 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 (Bone Infection) 

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 help treat jaw pain?

Caring for your 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)

Seeking professional dental care

If you have been unable to relieve your jaw pain using the tips listed above then you should contact your dentists to have it looked at.

At Aceti 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. 

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 in need of a dental exam for jaw pain please contact our Hamilton dentists to request an appointment today.

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