Jaw pain is a discomfort or pain in or around the jaw that affects speaking, chewing, and swallowing. It may occur as a result of TMJ disorders, dental problems, teeth grinding, and sinus infection. So, a correct diagnosis is essential to identify the underlying cause and treat it.
Possible Causes of Jaw Pain
The causes include:
- TMJ Disorders (TMD)
- Tooth Pain and Dental Problems
- Teeth grinding
- Tooth pain and dental problems
- After tooth extraction
- Sinus infection
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects your lower jaw and skull. TMJ disorders (TMD) refer to any dysfunction of the TMJ, which can cause jaw pain and other problems. The causes of TMJ disorders include:
- Trauma to the temporomandibular joint
- Teeth grinding
- Improper bite
- Emotional stress
- Arthritis in the TMJ
Other symptoms of TMD include:
- Headache and earache
- Facial pain
- Clicking or popping sounds when you open or close your mouth
- Trismus, a limitation of jaw opening
Tooth Pain and Dental Problems
If dental caries is left untreated, the bacteria can spread to the inner of the tooth (dental pulp), causing 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. Gum disease can also cause discomfort or pain that radiates into the jaw.
Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)
Teeth grinding often occurs during sleep. It may be caused by emotions, such as stress and anxiety. When teeth grinding occurs regularly, it can cause:
- The wear of tooth enamel and the exposure of deeper, sensitive tooth layers, causing tooth sensitivity that radiates into the jaw.
- TMJ Disorders and a clicking sound when you open your mouth.
- Severe facial or jaw pain.
After Tooth Extraction
Jaw pain may occur after a tooth extraction, especially after difficult, surgical, or multiple extractions. If extreme pain occurs, this can be a sign of wound infection. In that case, you should consult your surgeon or dentist immediately.
Sinuses are hollow air spaces surrounding the nose and produce secretions, known as “mucus”. Sinusitis is an inflammation or swelling of the tissue lining the sinuses, which can cause pain in your teeth, jaw, or ears. Also, it causes facial pressure (around the nose, eyes, and forehead), especially when the affected person bends over or lies down.
Symptoms Associated 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
- Teeth grinding
- Tooth sensitivity
- Jaw joint and muscle pain
- Clicking or popping sound with opening or closing the mouth
- Pain in the neck, shoulder, and back
Diagnosis of Jaw Pain
Visit your dentist if you have discomfort in the jaw. Your dentist will ask you some questions about any medical or dental condition you have, medications you take, and any related symptoms. Then, they will examine your mouth 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 discomfort.
Usually followed by an x-ray. Your dentist will refer you to an ENT specialist if they suspect sinus problems.
Treatment of Jaw Pain
The Treatment depends on the underlying cause, including:
- Medications: your dentist may prescribe
- OTC pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen may help reduce discomfort.
- Muscle relaxant in the case of teeth grinding and TMJ disorders
- Antibiotics in the case of a tooth abscess and wound infection after tooth extraction.
- Nightguard: it is a plastic protector worn on teeth to protect them from teeth grinding. Nightguard can help stop 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. 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 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 discomfort 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 carrots, whole apples, hard bread, and even ice. Also, cut foods into small pieces.
- Limit caffeine: caffeine can make your jaw muscles more active, making your TMJ symptoms worse.
Jaw pain can be a sign of many problems such as TMJ disorders, teeth grinding, dental problems, and sinus infections. If you have pain in the jaw, schedule an appointment with your dentist to identify the underlying cause and treat it. While you are waiting for your dentist appointment, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers to help reduce discomfort. Also, avoid caffeine, and chewy and crunchy foods. Treatment depends on the underlying cause.