Why does my jaw hurt?

If you are plagued by jaw pain, you're probably wondering why it's occurring, what other symptoms may be related and about potential treatment options. Our Edmonton dentists answer these questions in today's post.

Jaw Pain

While eating breakfast one morning, a sudden pain in your jaw has you lifting your hand to rub it. Perhaps this has happened before or this is the first time. The pain may be on one side or both sides of your face, but all you know is that you want a solution that will help alleviate the pain - quickly. 

While jaw pain can be confusing and even alarming, not to worry - typically, it's not a cause for immediate concern. It's also common - nearly everyone suffers from jaw pain at some point in their lives.

However, you likely have some questions about what this type of pain means, when to see a dentist and how you can alleviate discomfort at home. 

What causes jaw pain?

Reasons for jaw pain can vary from simple, easily treated issues to complex problems that will need an advanced treatment plan. 

Several things may cause you to experience jaw pain, including:

TMJ Disorder (TMD)

The temporomandibular joint is a hinge connecting your jaw to your skull's temporal bones. Typically, this joint allows you to move your jaw up and down and side to side so you can speak and chew. 

When there are problems with the jaw and muscles in your face, symptoms such as headaches, a sharp pain in the jaw and ringing in the ears can appear. 

Other symptoms of TMD may include:

  • Painful chewing
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Difficulty opening jaw
  • Burning sensation in the mouth
  • Tender jaw
  • Pain around the ears
  • Jaw locking
  • Clicking, popping or grinding sounds when opening jaw

Sinusitis

Do you struggle with your sinuses? You may have experienced sinus pain and pressure masquerading as jaw pain.

Located behind the cheeks, the nasal cavities can become inflamed, which can cause pain on one or both sides of your jaw. 

If your jaw pain is accompanied by a post-nasal drip, fatigue, difficulty smelling or tasting, pressure in your forehead or dizziness, sinusitis may be the culprit. 

Cluster Headaches & Migraines 

Headache pain and migraines are well-known causes of a sore jaw. In migraine sufferers, blood vessels and nerves work together to create intense discomfort. If the problem eases and your jaw pain disappears along with it, a migraine may have caused the pain in your jaw. 

Oral Health Problems

In some circumstances, underlying oral health problems may be to blame for jaw pain. Some common issues that cause jaw pain are gum disease, tooth decay, cavities, emerging wisdom teeth, an abscessed tooth, clenching or grinding your teeth or missing or crooked teeth. 

You may also have an infection or cracked tooth, which can become a dental emergency. 

Grinding/Stress

If work and daily life are causing you emotional stress, your jaw may be more tense than you realize. While teeth grinding can cause fractures, grinding of our jaw can bring on pain. 

Trauma or Injury

Of course, if you've experienced any kind of trauma or injury such as a blow to the jaw due to a motor vehicle collision, fall or sports accident, your jaw may be fractured or dislocated, in which case you should visit an emergency room. An injury or strain can also cause muscle tension that results in jaw pain.

What are symptoms of jaw pain?

Jaw pain can occur on one side or both sides. If you've ever had this type of pain or heard it described, you know it can be a dull throb or severe ache. It may be accompanied by:

  • Headache
  • Shooting pain in the jaws or teeth
  • Neck pain
  • Earache
  • Muscle soreness 

How can I relieve my jaw pain?

Generally, home remedies such as rest and applying ice to your jaw may help alleviate pain. Avoid eating chewy foods and do some relaxation exercises. 

Jaw Pain Treatment at Emergency Dental Clinics

Left untreated, TMD can lead to chronic pain and headaches, changes to the gum tissue, loose teeth and eventual bone loss. 

If introducing home remedies fails to curb your pain, or the pain has become severe or is accompanied by the symptoms listed above, it's time to see one of our dentists in Edmonton. 

We see many people come in complaining about jaw pain on the left side or one side. 

Your dentist will ask questions about the nature of your issues and examine your jaw to determine whether your jaw pain is being caused by TMD. 

Once a dentist has diagnosed you with TMD, there may be a range of treatment options available, from nighttime oral appliances and orthodontics to a customized treatment plan combining dental care and at-home remedies such as specific exercises designed to help relax the jaw.  


Are you experiencing consistent jaw pain? Contact our Edmonton dentists right away. We can examine your jaw and recommend treatment options.

Have a dental emergency in Edmonton? We're here on weekends and after hours to help.

Dental emergencies always happen when you least expect them. Our friendly and experienced dental team is on call to assist you when you need us most.

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