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

While jaw pain can have a variety of causes such as toothaches, one of the other commonly seen causes is TMD or TMJ disorders. In this post, our Tecumseh dentists share some of the causes of jaw pain and the different types of TMJ disorders that can develop.

What Are the Typical Causes of Jaw Pain?

Many issues and conditions can be a cause of jaw pain, such as toothaches, broken or damaged teeth or even infection. One of the other possible causes of jaw pain is TMD or TMJ Disorders.

Jaw Pain Caused by TMJ Disorders (TMD)

One of the most common causes of jaw pain is TMJ 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 bone helps us with everything we do in a day that involves our mouth such as eating, breathing and talking. 

TMJ Disorders occur when there is an issue with your facial and jaw muscles. If this disorder is allowed to go untreated then eventually you may lose your ability to use this joint completely.

Some of the causes of TMJ Disorders can be:

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

Some symptoms that you may experience with TMJ Disorders are:

  • 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 suspect a problem with your TMJ, see your dentist so he or she can recommend treatment or exercises. Sometimes, prescription drugs or surgery may be required to address the issue.

Diseases Affecting the Facial Structure

Though we take many routine vaccines in childhood that have fortunately gotten rid of diseases, 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 serious condition can result in spending weeks in hospital.

Trauma to the Bones

If you experience an impact to the face or jaw then you may experience several concerns like:

  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Bruises
  • Pain
  • Swelling

Depending on the severity of the injury, if you have lost teeth and if you can't move your jaw or open your mouth then you should contact your Tecumseh dentists for examination and possible treatment. Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen may help, in addition to dental treatment if necessary.

Dental Issues and Conditions

A variety of dental issues can lead to a sore jaw. These 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 

Not typically cancerous, odontogenic cysts or tumours can quickly begin to impact your teeth. Surgery may be required to remove them.

Cluster Headaches Around Face

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.


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.

How Can I Help Relieve and Treat Jaw Pain?

At-Home Pain Relief Options

  • 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)

Dental Treatment For Jaw Pain

If you have jaw pain that you can't relieve then you should contact your Tecumseh dentist for an examination.

At St. Clair Beach Dental Centre, our dentists will perform an x-ray and examination to help determine the cause of your pain and if possible, discuss potential treatment options with you.

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 concerned that you may be showing the signs of a TMJ disorder please contact our Tecumseh dentists to request an appointment.

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