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What Jaw Pain Means: What Causes It and How to Treat It

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If you are suffering from jaw pain then you may wonder what could possibly be behind it. In this post, our Coquitlam dentists share some of the common causes of jaw pain, the associated symptoms and what you can do to help relieve the discomfort.

The Different Causes of Jaw Pain

There are a number of different issues that can affect your face, jaw or teeth resulting in jaw pain. Here we share some of the most commonly seen conditions that result in pain in the jaw:

TMJ Disorders / TMD / Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

Many of the cases of jaw pain that we see are the result of TMJ, otherwise known as TMD or temporomandibular disorder. The temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull (located just below your temple, in front of your ear). This joint is used for everything that you do that involves your mouth and jaw.

TMJ Disorders occur when there is an issue with your facial and jaw muscles. While there are treatment options which can help to treat the conditions causing your jaw pain, it is important to seek this care as soon as possible. Untreated jaw pain has the potential to lead to complications which may result in being unable to use your jaw.

Causes of TMJ Disorders can include:

  • Certain conditions or illnesses such as arthritis
  • Inflammation in the muscles surrounding your jaw
  • Misalignment of the jaw
  • Injury to the jaw

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder may include:

  • Pain or ache around your jaw, face or ears
  • Constant headaches
  • Locking or popping in your jaw
  • Dizziness
  • Vision problems
  • Ringing in ears

If you are experiencing symptoms that may indicate that you are suffering from TMJ or other forms of jaw pain then you should speak with your dentist about the treatment options available for you. Sometimes, prescription drugs or surgery may be required to address the issue.

Oral & Dental DIseases

The vaccinations that we receive throughout our lives help to protect us against a number of serious diseases. Even so, it’s still possible to get diseases that can cause jaw pain and other symptoms.

Tetanus is a bacterial infection that can cause your jaw muscles to stiffen or feel tight. This condition can leave you requiring weeks of hospital care or worse.

Traumatic Facial Injuries

Just like other bones in your body, your jaw can become fractured or dislocated. Some of the concerns you may have after receiving a blow to the face are:

  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Bruises
  • Pain
  • Swelling

Depending on the injury, you may need to see your dentist if the pain doesn’t go away, you are missing teeth or you’re unable to chew or open and close your mouth. Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen may help, in addition to dental treatment if necessary.

Dental Issues / Oral Habits

Whether your pain is due to bad habits or damage you will need to seek treatment quickly. Some of the concerns can include:

  • Fractured or crowded teeth
  • Toothache (typically with an abscess or cavity as the underlying cause)
  • Teeth grinding
  • Gum disease (which can cause your jaw bone to become damaged)
  • Wisdom teeth erupting
  • Misaligned teeth

These problems should be addressed as soon as possible, and fractured teeth are dental emergencies, so you should see your dentist right away. Until then, keep the tooth that hurts clean and try rinsing with warm water.

Cysts or Tumours (Malignant or Benign)

Not typically cancerous, odontogenic cysts or tumours can quickly begin to impact your teeth. There are certain cases that may require surgery inorder to remove the growth.

Cluster Headaches Around Eyes & Jaw

One of the most painful types of headache, cluster headaches can result in pain around or behind one eye, with pain radiating to reach the jaw.

Osteomyelitis / Myofascial Pain

A type of infection that occurs in the bone, this condition can impact your mandible (lower jaw). Referred to as anaerobic osteomyelitis, it can cut off the blood supply to your jaw and damage bone tissue if left untreated.

Ways to Relieve Jaw Pain

Care That You Can Provide at Home

  • Apply a warm, wet washcloth or ice pack covered in cloth to your jaw (10 minutes on, 10 minutes off)
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
  • Rub the affected joint. Massage the joint using your fingers, pressing the sore areas of your jaw and moving to the side of your neck.
  • Avoid caffeine (which can potentially contribute to muscle tension)

Professional Dental Care & Examinations

If your jaw pain persists after at-home remedies, make an appointment with your dentist.

At Austin Heights Dental, our dentists will discuss your symptoms with you, complete a comprehensive oral examination, explain possible treatment options, and develop a custom treatment plan that may include a mouthguard or other measures depending on your needs. 

In rare cases, oral surgery for TMJ Disorder may be recommended to correct the problem for those with severe pain that suffer from structural problems in their jaw and haven’t found relief with other remedies or treatments.

If you are suffering from pain in your jaw, teeth or face, please contact our Coquitlam dentists to request an appointment today.

Treat yourself to a healthier smile. Contact our practice today!

(604) 931-5550