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

Jaw pain could be a sign of a dental problem such as a toothache, TMJ Disorder, or maybe even a more severe issue. Today, our Airdrie dentists talk about the potential causes of jaw pain and how you can manage these sore joints.

The Causes of Jaw Pain

Jaw pain could be a sign of a dental problem such as a TMJ Disorder, toothache, or maybe a more problematic condition.

TMJ Disorders

TMJ Disorder is one of the most common causes of jaw pain. The temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull (found just under your temple, in front of your ear). This hinge plays a large role in your everyday life, allowing you to talk, breathe and eat.

TMJ Disorders develop when you have a problem with your facial and jaw muscles. If the disorder continues to advance and gets to a severe state after you are feeling pain in this area, you might eventually not be able to move the joint.

Causes of TMJ Disorders can include:

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

Some of the most common symptoms of TMJ Disorder include:

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

If you think you may have a problem with your TMJ contact your dentist, they can recommend treatment or exercises. In some situations, prescription drugs or surgery might be needed to address the problem.


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.


Like the other bones in your body, your jaw can get fractured or dislocated. After being hit in the jaw, you might experience:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Bruises
  • Loose or missing teeth

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 Problems

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

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

You should have these issues addressed as quickly as possible, fractured teeth are dental emergencies, so you should contact your dentist immediately. Until then, keep your sore tooth clean and try rinsing with warm water.

Cysts or Tumors

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

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are one of the most painful types of headaches and can cause pain around or behind one eye, with pain radiating to 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 blood supply to your jaw and damage bone tissue if left untreated.

How to Alleviate Jaw Pain

At-Home Care

  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
  • Apply a warm, wet washcloth or ice pack covered in cloth to your jaw (10 minutes on, 10 minutes off)
  • Avoid caffeine (which can potentially contribute to muscle tension)
  • 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.

Dental Care

If your jaw pain continues after trying at-home remedies, call your dentist to schedule an appointment.

At Blunston Dental Group, our dentists will talk to you about your symptoms, conduct a comprehensive oral examination, discuss potential treatment options, and develop a custom treatment plan that could include a mouthguard or other measures depending on your requirements. 

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.

Are you suffering from jaw pain? Contact our dentists in Airdrie today to schedule an appointment.

We are accepting new patients in Airdrie! We invite you to join the Blunston Dental family today.

(403) 912-9378