November 22, 2021

Jaw Pain: Causes and Treatment Explained

jaw pain

Are you sick of waking up every morning to find your jaw is still aching? Besides the issue of constant pain, it’s hard to know whether your jaw pain is a small issue that will pass in time or a bigger issue that can signal serious medical conditions like giant cell arteritis. So how can you find all the facts you need to put your mind at ease?

Well, that’s where we come in. With this guide to the causes and treatment of jaw pain, you can identify and help heal any form of jaw pain that comes your way!

But enough preamble, right? Let’s jump right into things!

Grinding Your Teeth

One of the main causes of jaw pain stems from grinding your teeth. Most people do it as a reaction to heightened feelings of panic or stress, though it can also happen as a symptom of Parkinson’s disease or a side effect of some medications. Teeth grinding can also cause your gums to recede, exposing the roots and making them more vulnerable to damage and temperature.

Try paying attention to how your jaw feels first thing in the morning. If it feels sore, that’s a sign you are grinding your teeth while you sleep, straining your jaw.

Dentists can provide a mouthguard to wear at night that prevents your teeth from rubbing up against one another. Grinding your teeth during waking hours is something you’ll want to pay attention to and start making a conscious effort to stop.

You can also wear a mouthguard during the day that doesn’t restrict your tongue. The caveat, however, is that they are less durable, meaning you’ll have to switch them out more often.

Tooth Injury And Infection

Another frequent perpetrator of jaw pain stems from your teeth either suffering injury or getting infected. For example, undiagnosed cavities can rot your teeth away until it reaches tissue in your jaw, injuring it as well.

Dental abscesses can also be at fault. These come around when bacteria infect the root of your tooth, causing a buildup of pus to accumulate nearby and inflict jaw pain.

Frequent visits to your dentist will help catch these problems before they escalate into attacks on your jaw. Taking proper care of your teeth (brushing/flossing twice a day, using mouthwash) will also help lower your chance of infection.

In some cases, the tooth ends up rotting too much for a dentist to preserve it. In that case, they will have to extract the tooth and insert a replacement to alleviate your jaw pain.

Joint Disorders

If you’ve gotten stuck with jaw pain that doesn’t seem to go away, temporomandibular joint disorder (or TMD/TMJ for short) should fall onto your list of suspects. This condition can occur when you overexert or cause trauma to the joints in your jaw.

If the discs in your jaw that absorb impact from jaw movement wear down too much (often through osteoarthritis) or move out of place, you’ve also got TMD on your hands. Grinding teeth also increases your chances of TMD occurring.

As such, your dentist will first need to identify the exact cause of your TMD before offering treatment. Medicine to relax your muscles or mouthguards can help if the problem lies in your jaw muscles. More serious cases may require corrective surgery to make them go away.

Heart Attack

While most people wouldn’t think the effects of heart attacks would reach as far as the jaw, jaw pain can occur during a heart attack. This is because the nerves that signal your brain that your heart is in pain are connected to the nerves in your spine going up to your brain.

When your brain gets these signals, it can misinterpret the pain as coming from multiple places due to this shared travel route. As such, you can experience pain in areas away from your heart like your jaw, back, and arms.

Wisdom Teeth and Other Teeth Placement Problems

If your wisdom teeth are starting to push other teeth out of the way as they try to emerge, you could experience jaw pain as a potential symptom. This is due to the displaced teeth placing additional pressure on your jaw, causing it to ache.

If your teeth get crammed together or otherwise misaligned, this can also injure your jaw. Using tools like braces to fix your teeth or extracting your wisdom teeth will help your jaw return to normal.

Sinus Issues and Other Causes

So how does a stuffy nose link to jaw pain? Well, when your sinuses get infected, more mucus than normal starts to accumulate in your sinuses. This puts extra pressure on the joints in your jaw, as they aren’t used to the current level of mucus.

Cluster headaches can also be at fault, as pain from these headaches can travel down into your jaw. Fast-acting pain medication can help alleviate discomfort during headaches.

Preventative measures like corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and gentle electrical stimulation of nerves in your brain help make sure the condition shows up less. In some cases, you’ll need surgery to insert a stimulator into your brain that can help combat headaches with the push of a button.

In more severe cases you’ll want to keep an eye out for trigeminal neuralgia. This occurs in your trigeminal nerve (the nerve that tells the brain the face is in pain) and causes mild sensations to trigger sharp bursts of pain. Fortunately, the condition can get treated with a combination of medicine and surgery to release pressure on the affected nerves.

Sending Your Jaw Pain Packing

And that’s all there is to it! Now that you know the different causes of jaw pain and how to treat them, you’re prepared to tackle any case that comes your way!

But what if your jaw pain gets worse, or you run into another oral issue you don’t know how to solve? In that case, contact our offices and schedule an appointment so we can help get you the care you need.