6 Reasons and Solutions for Your Jaw Pain

There's help for your jaw pain

Find relief for your sore jaw.

Jaw pain can range from barely noticeable soreness to a constant, throbbing ache. If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort in your jaw, there’s a good chance there’s an underlying oral or medical condition that’s triggering your symptoms.

Here are the most frequently seen triggers for jaw pain and how your dentist can help.

1. Toothache

The most common cause of jaw pain is actually a toothache! Toothaches are usually triggered by untreated tooth decay and can cause a few different pain symptoms. You may be experiencing a toothache with accompanying jaw pain, or your tooth itself may feel OK but may trigger referred pain in the jaw. This means your tooth could be the problem, but you may only feel pain in your jaw.

Skilled dentists are well versed in finding even the smallest cavity and treating it right away. In the case of a toothache, you may need a simple dental filling or something more robust, such as a dental crown. Root canal therapy is useful for toothaches caused by an infection inside the tooth. 

2. Temporomandibular Disorder

Temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) are the most common cause of localized jaw pain that’s not related to toothaches. TMDs impact the muscles in the jaw and face, can lead to facial nerve pain, and often cause joint pain around the temporomandibular joint(TMJ).

The most common TMD is a TMJ disorder. Symptoms include pain in the jaw around the joint, general soreness in the lower teeth, stiffness in the neck and upper back, clicking in the jaw, and bruxism or teeth grinding. You might experience these symptoms at their worst when eating or speaking. 

Most TMJ disorders are treated by your dentist with oral appliances and sometimes orthodontic care if misaligned teeth are causing the disorder. Myofunctional exercises, like physical therapy for the mouth and face, can also bring relief. 

3. Clenching Teeth or Bruxism

TMJ disorders and bruxism are strongly linked, but you can also experience bruxism without any sort of TMD being present. Constantly clenching and grinding your teeth can quickly cause permanent damage to your tooth enamel and always requires help from your dentist.

If your jaw and teeth feel sore and your teeth seem to be visibly wearing down, book a visit with your dentist right away. To help you manage your pain and discomfort, our doctors will first do an evaluation of your face, teeth, and bite, then listen for clicks or pops when you open or close your jaw.

Once we have a clear picture of either TMD or bruxism, we can create a custom nightguard as the first line of treatment. A nightguard can work to keep your teeth from clenching and grinding, and it also realigns your jaw and relieves tension in the area surrounding it. 

4. Missing Teeth

Missing teeth are a frequently seen issue in adults over the age of 30, and the problem typically worsens with age. When teeth are lost or have to be extracted, an experienced dentist will recommend a replacement option right away. The reason for this is that missing teeth can cause a number of issues when the gaps are left to their own devices. Teeth will tend to shift toward the empty space and become crooked, bone loss can occur in the jawbone, and additional symptoms like jaw pain can crop up.

Dental implants are the perfect solution for replacing missing teeth. They are permanent, ultra-realistic in appearance, and feel just like natural teeth. Best of all, they stop bone loss from occurring and solve the jaw pain issue. Your dentist can also offer alternatives if dental implants are not the best choice for you.

5. Jaw or Facial Injury

Impacts to the face and jaw can happen from falling, playing contact sports, being involved in a car accident, and a number of other scenarios. If you hurt your jaw, you may feel pain in the area right away or begin to feel discomfort days later as your body tries to heal.

Firstly, if you’ve just hit your head or face and you’re experiencing pain, dizziness, confusion, or otherwise feel “off,” it’s crucial to see a physician urgently as you may have a head or brain injury.

If your jaw pain is instead limited to just your jaw and is not an urgent medical situation, your dentist can help you find relief. Your dentist will examine and feel or palpate the area as well as take X-rays to see if any damage has occurred to the bone or joint.

In most cases of a slip and fall without serious damage, your body simply needs to heal. Your dentist will provide guidance on how to find relief with OTC pain medication, gentle exercises, and cold or warm compress therapy. If your dentist has found that the bone or joint is misaligned, broken, or otherwise damaged, you may need to be referred to an oral surgeon for more extensive treatment.

6. Arthritis

Arthritis is often associated with pain and limited mobility in the joints of the body, especially within the hands, knees, hips, feet, and spine. But many common types of arthritis can also cause pain in the jaw. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis can all lead to inflammation, pain, swelling, and restricted mobility in the jaw, particularly around the TMJ.

Treating jaw pain caused by arthritis often requires a team effort from both your general practitioner (GP) and your dentist. Your GP will be able to form a diagnosis and treat arthritis symptoms in your body. Your dentist will be able to take X-rays of your jaw to determine bone health and help treat your symptoms.

Treating arthritis in the jaw may involve medication from your GP coupled with oral appliances and myofunctional therapy sessions from your dentist.  

A Quick Note About Jaw Pain and Heart Attacks

Did you know that jaw pain can be an early symptom of an oncoming cardiac event?

Pain in the jaw and neck are a fairly common symptom of heart trouble. This type of pain often feels like general soreness that can’t be pinpointed at a specific area of the jaw, as you would feel with something like a TMD. This type of jaw pain may be ongoing or only occur when exerting your body. If this pain happens when you’re actively working out or doing something strenuous and ceases once you stop, this is a very serious sign of potential heart trouble.

If you suspect your heart may be the problem, contact your GP immediately. If you’re actively experiencing this type of pain right now along with other symptoms like rapid heart rate or numbness in the arms, seek emergency assistance right away. 

Book a consultation at Laurel Manor Dental.

It’s important to check in with your dentist whenever you feel any level of pain, discomfort, or unusual sensation in your jaw or mouth. Even the mildest jaw pain is worth a trip to the dentist.

Your jaw pain consultation at Laurel Manor Dental will involve a gentle but thorough examination, often a few X-rays, and a discussion about your symptoms. With these three factors, your dentist can often form a diagnosis and start you on a treatment plan during the same visit. To schedule a consultation, you can call our office located in The Villages or request a visit online.