Jaw pain is a common and often uncomfortable issue that many people experience at some point in their lives. You may even ask, “Why does my jaw hurt”? Whether it’s a dull ache, sharp discomfort, or persistent soreness, understanding the underlying causes of jaw pain is essential to finding effective relief.
In this blog, we will explore some of the potential answers to that question and discuss ways to alleviate the discomfort.
What Are the Common Causes of Jaw Pain?
1. Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder
TMJ disorder, or temporomandibular joint disorder, is a common cause of jaw pain. This disorder affects the junctures between your jaw and skull, with symptoms like severe pain around the jaw joint, difficulty in opening or closing your mouth, and a clicking or popping sound while chewing. The potential culprits behind TMJ disorder may include teeth grinding, misaligned teeth, stress, and injury.
To combat TMJ disorder, you may need to make lifestyle changes, undergo dental adjustments, and, in extreme cases, undertake surgical procedures. Dentists or oral specialists can offer advice depending on your condition’s severity.
2. Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)
Another cause of jaw pain can be teeth grinding, colloquially known as bruxism. This often takes place during sleep, leading to strain on jaw muscles due to excessive force, thereby causing discomfort and occasional headaches.
To alleviate this, your dentist could suggest a mouthguard for nighttime use. Apart from this, reducing stress and making lifestyle changes might prove beneficial.
3. Dental Problems
Sometimes, problems like tooth decay, gum disease, or abscessed teeth might also be the culprits behind one-sided jaw pain, as these issues project their pain toward the jaw area. Timely dental care, including fillings, cleanings, and extractions, can provide relief from jaw soreness caused by such dental complications.
4. Sinus Complications
There could also be cases where sinus-related issues, such as sinusitis or sinus infections, cause transferred pain to the jaw area. The close placement of the sinuses to the jaw makes it a challenge to recognize the actual pain source.
Addressing the underlying sinus problem can soothe this indirect jaw pain. This might involve taking decongestants, antibiotics, or other sinus treatments as prescribed by a healthcare provider.
5. Trauma or Injury
Experiencing physical trauma or injury to the jaw, face, or head may induce sudden and severe jaw pain. Fractures, dislocations, or muscle strains can all contribute to this discomfort. If such injuries occur, seek immediate medical counseling. Treatment might necessitate immobilization, surgery, or other measures based on the severity of the inflicted injury.
Arthritis types such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis may also impact the temporomandibular joint, causing persisting jaw pain. If you suspect arthritis, consult a healthcare provider to diagnose and create a treatment plan, which may encompass medication, physical therapy, or lifestyle alterations.
7. Stress and Tension
Stress and tension are also notorious for causing jaw muscles to tighten, leading to pain and discomfort—a condition often termed as “stress jaw.” Managing stress effectively, undertaking relaxation exercises, and making lifestyle adjustments can alleviate jaw pain caused by stress and tension.
What Are Some Rare Causes of Jaw Pain?
Oddly enough, Trigeminal neuralgia is a scarcely seen neurological disorder distinguished by severe, sharp pain running along the trigeminal nerve, influencing the jaw, face, and forehead. This disorder may incite sudden and intense bouts of discomfort, often sparked by simple actions like speaking, chewing, or even a minor touch to the face.
To handle the pain, medications may be utilized, and in more severe cases, surgical interventions may be deliberated to alleviate pressure on the afflicted nerve.
Giant Cell Arteritis
Interestingly, giant cell arteritis is an inflammation-linked condition that affects blood vessels, primarily the temporal arteries. One may experience jaw pain accompanied by headaches, vision disturbances, and sensitivity in the temple area.
Immediate medical attention in the form of corticosteroids is vital to control inflammation and avert complications associated with giant cell arteritis.
Osteonecrosis of the Jaw
Osteonecrosis of the jaw is a rare yet severe condition wherein the jaw bone tissue lacks an adequate supply of blood, leading to bone death. Its associations often lie with specific medications, like bisphosphonates, typically prescribed for osteoporosis and particular cancer treatments.
Preventative measures and management include rigorous monitoring of medication consumption, maintaining excellent oral cleanliness, and immediate intervention if symptoms become apparent.
Sialolithiasis denotes the formation of salivary gland stones, which can obstruct saliva flow. When this impediment occurs in the submandibular gland ducts, it can cause swelling and discomfort in the jaw area, particularly during meal times.
Treatment measures may include massaging the impacted gland, ensuring adequate hydration, and, in certain instances, medical procedures to remove the stone.
Myofascial Pain Syndrome
Myofascial pain syndrome involves the formation of trigger points in muscles, causing localized discomfort and sensitivity. These trigger points can develop in the jaw muscles, leading to persistent jaw pain. Conventional management includes physical therapy, injections at the trigger point, and lifestyle alterations to reduce muscle tension.
When Is Jaw Pain Serious?
1. Intensity and Duration
Persistent, severe, or worsening jaw pain over an extended period may indicate an underlying issue that requires attention. A sudden jaw pain could be a sign of a severe condition, and immediate medical treatment may be necessary. The constant pain in the jaw, even in the absence of any physical injury or trauma to the area, should not be ignored and should be discussed with a healthcare provider.
2. Pain Accompanied by Other Symptoms
Jaw pain on the left side, accompanied by symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, or radiating pain to the arm, may suggest a heart-related issue. Other symptoms indicating serious conditions may include facial pain, neck pain, or shoulder pain, along with jaw pain.
3. Difficulty in Jaw Movement
Inability to open or close the mouth, sudden jaw locking, or significant restrictions in jaw movement may be indicative of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders or other serious conditions. The range of motion might be severely affected, and one-sided jaw pain could also be experienced.
4. Trauma or Injury
If jaw pain is a result of recent trauma, such as a blow to the face or a car accident, it may signify fractures or dislocations. Prompt treatment is necessary to prevent more severe conditions, and an accurate diagnosis from a medical professional is essential to implement an appropriate treatment plan.
5. Unexplained Swelling or Lumps
Swelling, lumps, or unusual changes in the jaw or neck area may be indicative of infections, tumors, or other serious conditions. These masses of tissue could be affecting blood flow or putting abnormal pressure on the surrounding nerves and blood vessels, causing pain.
6. Fever and Systemic Symptoms
Jaw pain accompanied by fever, chills, and other systemic symptoms may suggest an infection. Bacterial infections or sinus infections that spread to the jaw area can cause severe jaw pain on one side, and it’s important to seek medical care immediately to avoid complications.
7. Pain With Other Dental Symptoms
If jaw pain is accompanied by severe dental symptoms like swelling, pus drainage, or persistent bleeding, it may indicate a dental infection, like abscessed teeth or tooth decay. A visit to a dental professional is crucial for a proper diagnosis and receiving timely dental treatment.
Visit DNA Dental Dallas to Diagnose and Relieve Your Jaw Pain
Dentists play a crucial role in addressing jaw pain and related issues. When patients experience jaw pain, dentists can conduct a comprehensive examination to identify the root cause. Whether the pain stems from dental problems like tooth decay, gum disease, or misalignment or is associated with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, dentists can manage and prevent jaw pain effectively.
At DNA Dental Dallas, our expertise extends beyond just the teeth. Reach out to our dental professionals so we can provide personalized advice and treatment options for your jaw discomfort.