Common Causes Of Pain In Your Jaw

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Medically reviewed by Othman Lahmaydi, RDH

Jaw pain is one of the worst pains to experience because the jaw is used for many activities like eating and talking. It can also be challenging to narrow down the exact causes of severe jaw pain. But what are the reasons for jaw pain?

Most jaw pain is caused by either TMJ, teeth grinding, or headaches, all of which cause inflammation in the jaw. But if you play sports, trauma to your jaw can also cause jaw pain. No matter the reason for your jaw pain, you can try many over-the-counter treatments at home. 

It can be difficult to know when to stop the at-home treatments and to seek medical help. So let’s look at some common causes of jaw pain so that you know when it’s time to call your dentist. 

What Can Lead to Jaw Pain?

Pretty african american young woman have toothache

Jaw pain can be tricky to figure out as there isn’t one single cause. You may quickly reach for the Oragel (on Amazon), but you’ll still want to address the root cause. In most cases, you are likely experiencing jaw pain because you have damaged or injured your jaw muscle.

But there are cases where jaw pain is caused by more serious things, such as TMJ, severe headaches, or even simply grinding your teeth too much. To narrow down the cause of your jaw pain, you must evaluate your symptoms carefully. 

If your symptoms are severe or don’t match with any of the suggested reasons for jaw pain, you may want to consider seeking the help of a dentist to find out why your jaw is hurting. 

Poor Dental Hygiene 

Jaw pain can be caused by a cavity that has reached the root of a tooth and by an abscess or gum disease. It can also be caused when teeth are too crowded or when you are getting new teeth like wisdom teeth. 

The best way to know if poor dental hygiene is the cause of your jaw pain is to see a dentist. They will be able to look at your teeth and tell you whether they are healthy. 

To avoid jaw pain caused by poor dental hygiene, brush your teeth twice daily, floss once a day, and rinse using mouthwash.

Symptoms of TMJ

Temporomandibular joint disorder, abbreviated TMJ, is a medical condition affecting the joints in your jaw bone. It is a common medical condition and is most common among women. 

TMJ is typically caused by an improperly healed jaw injury or excessive grinding and clenching of the teeth. But sometimes, it can also be caused by your bite not lining up correctly or an illness like arthritis. 

There are several symptoms of TMJ, and they include the following: 

  • Jaw pain
  • Headaches
  • Ringing in the Ears
  • Dizziness
  • Clicking sound when opening and closing the mouth
  • Difficulty or pain while chewing
  • The locking of the jaw

If you have three or more of these symptoms, then you likely have TMJ. It’s essential to seek medical help to learn how to manage your TMJ, as stress can further aggravate the disease. 

Stress and Migraines

When stressed, you are more likely to clench your teeth, leading to jaw pain. 

Many people get headaches or migraines from stress as well. Even if you get another type of migraine, such as one caused by hormones, depending on where the migraine is in your head can cause the pain to spread to your jaw. 

If you are experiencing migraines along with jaw pain, it is vital to seek medical care to discover the cause of your migraines before you work to treat the jaw pain.

Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding or chewing constantly can cause trauma to your jaw, leading to jaw pain. In addition, both of these activities can also damage your jaw. 

Many people grind or clench their teeth when stressed, which is why working to mitigate stress in your life is essential. People who constantly chew are usually those who enjoy chewing gum. 

While it can be difficult to stop chewing gum or clenching your teeth, it may be your only way to relieve jaw pain. Dentists often have tips and tricks to help you stop either of these habits. 

Pain from Jaw Injuries

If you frequently play sports and are experiencing jaw pain, it could be the culprit. For example, during contact sports, you may get hit in the face by a ball or impact your jaw when you are tackled with a helmet on. 

Either of these cases can lead to jaw pain. Typically, jaw injuries will clear up on their own, but occasionally they can become more severe and turn into TMJ. Therefore, any jaw pain that you suspect is caused by an injury but doesn’t go away on its own within a few days should be looked at by a medical professional. 

Remedies for Alleviating Jaw Pain 

The good news is that no matter which of the above ailments is causing your jaw pain, you can use many at-home remedies to minimize the symptoms. 

Hot/Cold Packs

A girl attaches a medical bag with cold to the swelling on her cheek after removing a wisdom tooth

An ice pack is the first thing you should reach for when you have jaw pain. An ice pack can help lower inflammation and reduce pain. It can also help you feel better if you are suffering from a migraine or stress. 

Apply the hot or cold pack to your face for 10 minutes, then take a 10-minute break before re-applying for ten more minutes. You can repeat this process several times. 

Pain Relievers

You can take over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen to help stop jaw pain. This may be especially helpful when you have a jaw injury or a headache. 

Don’t overuse these pain relievers, however; if you find that you need more and more of them to do an everyday task like eating, then it is time to see a dentist or doctor. 

Massage Your Jaw and Neck

Some jaw pain can be caused by muscle tension, mainly in cases of stress or stress headaches. If you think your jaw pain might be from stress, a simple massage can help.

Using just two fingers, gently press the corner of your jaw near your ears. You can rub it in a circular motion for a few minutes. You can also massage your neck using the same method. 

Final Thoughts on Causes of Pain in Your Jaw

Overall, jaw pain is annoying, especially when it gets in the way of mealtime. But before you jump to conclusions, evaluate your symptoms to see what you think is causing your jaw pain. 

If you think you may have injured your jaw or suffer frequent headaches, there is much you can do at home to treat your jaw pain. But if your pain is caused by something more serious, ensure you seek professional help. 

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