Jaw pain is a common complaint for many people and it can originate from many sources. Without further ado, here are ten causes of jaw pain you should know.
1. Temporomandibular Dysfunction (TMD) – TMD is a problem with the jaw joint, or the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). It’s the most common cause of pain in the jaw area. In addition to jaw pain, it can cause popping or clicking when opening or closing the jaw, difficulty opening or closing all the way, pain in the joint or surrounding muscles, and tooth grinding, just to name a few of the most obvious symptoms. Migraines, headaches, and pain in the shoulder and neck can also stem from TMD. People with unexplained pain in this area should consider whether they have other symptoms that might indicate TMD, as many people don’t immediately associate unexplained headaches with TMD.
2. Tooth Grinding – Tooth grinding, or bruxism, typically happens during sleep, so it’s easy for someone to be unaware that they do it. Tooth grinding puts sustained pressure on the jaw joint and surrounding muscles, causing pain, and can wear down teeth, too. It may be related or unrelated to TMD.
3. Tooth Clenching – Like tooth grinding, this bad habit puts prolonged stress on the jaw joint and muscles, leading to pain. It may occur at night or during the day. During waking hours, people who are in the habit of clenching their jaw need to be mindful to keep their teeth apart and jaw relaxed in order not to make the pain any worse.
4. Tooth Problems – An infected tooth or abscessed tooth can cause jaw pain, even if the tooth isn’t located close to the jaw.
5. Sinus Infection – This common affliction can cause jaw pain as the pressure builds in the sinus cavity. Over-the-counter medicines are usually enough to alleviate the pain.
6. Rheumatoid Arthritis – This autoimmune disease attacks the joints which leads to inflammation and resulting pain. Just as RA can cause pain in the knuckles, elbows, and knees, it can also cause pain in other joints of the body including the jaw joint. Other signs of RA are tenderness, redness, warmth, swelling, and stiffness at the joint.
7. Neuropathic Pain – Neuropathic pain stems from problems with damaged or dysfunctional nerves. It often causes a state of chronic pain and can show up anywhere in the body. Pain that derives from the nerves may have one or more of the following characteristics: shooting, burning, stabbing, tingling, or numbness.
8. Oral Cancer – Pain in the jaw is one of many possible symptoms of oral cancer, along with persistent mouth sores, a lump in the cheek, difficulty swallowing and chewing, loose teeth, and persistent bad breath. This relatively rare cancer is twice as common in men as in women. (If you’re concerned about oral cancer, learn more here.)
9. Heart Attack or Heart Problems – Pain or pressure in the jaw that spreads from the chest or arms is one sign of a heart attack. It’s been reported that pain in the jaw on the lower left side is most commonly associated with heart attacks, so don’t ignore it if you feel jaw pain there.
10. Physical Trauma – A direct blow to the face, auto accident, or similar physical trauma may be the cause of pain in the jaw. After the nose, the jawbone is the most frequently broken bone in the face. Jawbones may be dislocated, too. Any physical trauma like this to the face should be treated with immediate medical care.
Speak to Your Dentist – If you’re experiencing pain in your jaw, the jaw joint, or the surrounding muscles, mention it to your dentist the next time you’re in the chair. Dentists and orthodontists are often able to pinpoint the cause and come up with a treatment plan to address the cause and alleviate the pain, once and for all.