Jaw pain is any kind of physical discomfort localized in the jaw. However, sometimes it can radiate to other areas of the face. Jaw pain is a very common problem. In most cases, it does not require immediate medical attention. While this is a relief, sometimes jaw pain can be indicative of a more serious underlying condition.
Jaw pain is caused by a myriad of issues. It can be caused by sinuses, ear problems, dental issues, injured nerved endings in the jaw, heart attacks, etc. Therefore, it can be difficult to tell what exactly is causing your jaw pain. Depending on its cause and severity, jaw pain can affect your ability to speak and eat. If you have severe, worsening, or persistent jaw pain, you should consult with your doctor or dentist as soon as you can.
Symptoms of Jaw Pain
- Pain in the face or jaw that worsens when the person uses their jaw (pain could range from a dull ache to a sharp, stabbing sensation).
- Joint and muscle tenderness (accompanied by a fever, this might indicate an infection).
- Limited range of motion of the mouth.
- Jaw alignment problems.
- Clicking or popping sounds while opening or closing the jaw.
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
- Headaches with or without ear pain and pressure behind the eyes (tension or cluster headaches).
- Dizziness and vertigo (a spinning sensation).
- Jaw locking
- Facial swelling.
Causes of Jaw Pain
- Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder
The temporomandibular joint is a cluster of muscles, bones, and nerve endings that are responsible for the jaw movement. Thus, TMJ disorder is any condition that affects any of these connective parts. TMJ disorder can be caused by several things;
- Injury to the jaw joint. This could happen if blood vessels, muscles, or nerve endings in the TMJ were compromised.
- Excess stimulation of the joint. There is a condition called temporal arteritis. It develops when the arteries on the temples become inflamed. It is caused by enthusiastic and lengthy chewing. This condition can affect the TMJ and can cause headaches as well.
- A displaced disc that cushions the jaw movement.
- Arthritis of the protective disc that cushions TMJ.
- Teeth grinding or clenching (bruxism).
Trauma is any physical injury or strain to the body. For instance, if a person took a severe hit to the jaw, it would likely lead to TMJ pain. Jaw pain can be caused by a broken or dislocated jaw. One can dislocate their jaw by opening the mouth too suddenly and too wide, for instance, if one yawned too wide.
- Dental Conditions
Gum diseases, cavity, damaged tooth, tooth abscess, or even a tooth gap can cause jaw pain. These conditions can compromise the blood vessels and nerve endings in the gum and cause jaw pain.
- Sinus Problems
Sinuses are air-filled cavities located close to the TMJ. If your sinuses get infected, they can be filled with mucus or pus, which could put pressure on the joint and cause jaw pain.
- Cluster and Tension Headaches
These kinds of headaches are usually caused by stress, and they can cause debilitating pain. Cluster headaches typically cause pain behind or around the eyes, but the pain can radiate to the jaw.
- Heart Attack
This is by far the most serious cause of jaw pain. If the jaw pain is sudden and accompanied by shortness of breath, chest pain/discomfort, feeling faint, sweating, and nausea, you might be having a heart attack. Please call 911 immediately.
If you have severe and recurrent jaw pain, or if you have a combination of the symptoms seen above, see your doctor, dentist, or oral surgeon. You would want to know if your jaw pain was an underlying condition to something more serious.