Jaw Pain: Possible Causes and Treatment

Jaw pain is an uncomfortable pain in or around the jaw that affects your ability to speak, chew, and swallow. TMJ disorders are the most common cause of jaw pain. However, there are many other possible causes such as tooth abscess, teeth grinding, and sinus problems. So, correct diagnosis is very important to identify the underlying cause and choose the appropriate treatment option.

Causes of Jaw Pain

The most common cause of jaw pain is an injury to the jaw joint. However, there are many other possible causes, include:

TMJ Disorders (TMD)

TMJ disorders are the most common cause of jaw pain. The causes of TMJ disorders include trauma to the temporomandibular joint, teeth grinding, changes in the bite caused by missing teeth, emotional stress, and arthritis.

Tooth Pain

When a dental caries is left untreated, the bacteria spread to the dental pulp, causing a tooth pain that radiates into the jaw. Also, this will lead to the formation of a dental abscess and the spread of infection to the surrounding bone tissues, causing jaw pain.

Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding (bruxism) occurs most frequently in stressful situations or during sleep, causing tooth damage and jaw pain. Also, teeth grinding causes the wear of tooth enamel and the exposure of deeper, sensitive tooth layers which causes tooth pain that radiates into the jaw. As a result, the dentist may perform a root canal treatment to relieve the pain.

After Tooth Extraction

Jaw pain can occur after a tooth extraction especially after difficult, surgical, or multiple extractions. If extreme jaw pain occurs, this can be a sign of wound infection. In that case, you should consult your surgeon or dentist immediately.

Dental Problems

Dental problems such as dental caries, gum disease, damaged teeth, tooth gaps, and tooth abscess cause pain that radiates into the jaw.

Sinus Problems

Sinuses are hollow air spaces surrounding the nose and produce secretions, known as “mucus”. A sinus infection causes an excess of mucus secretion which causes jaw pain or pressure especially when the affected person bends over or lying down.


Osteomyelitis of the jaw is an infection of the jaw bone. It can occur if an infection enters the jaw bone tissue from the bloodstream, due to injury or surgery.

What Symptoms May Occur With Jaw Pain?

You may have other symptoms that occur with jaw pain. Identifying these symptoms can help your dentist make a diagnosis. These include:

  • Facial pain.
  • A headache.
  • Dizziness.
  • Earache.
  • Teeth grinding.
  • A toothache.
  • Tooth sensitivity.
  • Jaw joint and muscle pain.
  • Lockjaw.
  • Clicking or popping sound with opening or closing the mouth.
  • Pain in the neck, shoulder, and back.

Diagnosis of Jaw Pain

First, contact your dentist if you have a jaw pain. Your dentist will ask you some questions about any medical or dental condition you have, medications you take, and any related symptoms. Then, he/she will examine your oral cavity searching for:

  • Damaged tooth.
  • Tooth Abscess.
  • Gum disease.
  • Dental caries.
  • High tooth restoration.
  • Incorrectly adjusted crowns and bridges.
  • Wound infection after tooth extraction.
  • Jaw joint and muscle pain.

Usually followed by an x-ray. Your dentist will refer you to an ENT specialist if he/she suspects sinus problems.

Treatment of Jaw Pain

Treatment of jaw pain depends on the underlying cause, include:

  • Medications: your dentist may prescribe antibiotics in the case of a tooth abscess and wound infection after tooth extraction. Also, he/she will prescribe painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs such as NSAIDs to relieve the pain. In the case of teeth grinding and TMJ disorders, your dentist may prescribe a muscle relaxant.
  • Nightguard: to relieve the pain caused by teeth grinding and prevent complications.
    Dental Treatments: your dentist will treat existing dental problems such as dental caries and gum disease to relieve the pain.
  • Root canal treatment: your dentist may perform a root canal treatment in the case of a tooth abscess and severe tooth sensitivity.
  • Jaw surgery: if other treatments can’t help in the case of TMJ disorders, your doctor may recommend a jaw surgery such as arthrocentesis, TMJ arthroscopy, and open-joint surgery.

Home Remedies for Jaw Pain

  • Apply ice packs or moist heat: to relax overactive jaw muscles and relieve the jaw pain in the case of teeth grinding and TMJ disorders. Also, massage the affected muscles around the jaw.
  • Relaxation therapy: such as yoga and meditation to relieve stress.
  • Avoid chewy and crunchy foods: such as apple and chewing gum. Also, cut foods into small pieces.