Jaw Pain — Common Causes and Treatment of a Painful Jaw

Jaw pain can have many causes. If you’re experiencing pain in your jaw, consult with your dentist, who will help you choose the best treatment.

If you live in Illinois and are experiencing frequent jaw pain, visit Ivanhoe Dental Group for emergency dental care. Jaw pain can be debilitating, as it interferes with your ability to chew and talk. Many medical problems can cause jaw issues, including headaches, tooth pain, and TMD. That means it can be difficult to discern why your jaw is hurting right off the bat.

However, the first step to proper treatment is determining what is causing you discomfort in the first place. Read on to learn more about the most common causes of jaw pain, whether they require emergency dental services, and what you can do to alleviate the pain.

What Causes Jaw Pain?

To treat the pain in your jaw successfully, you must first determine why you’re experiencing it. One of the reasons could be a recent injury to the face or neck. However, if you weren’t injured but you still have problems with jaw pain, take a look at these common causes for it:

Temporomandibular Joint and Muscle Disorder: (TMD or TMJ)

Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder (TMD or TMJ, for short) affects the muscles and joints that connect your lower jaw to your skull. It can be more pronounced on one side, or it can affect both sides of the jaw equally. TMD is more common in women, but many men experience it, as well.

Although TMD can occur without an apparent cause, it’s most often associated with other health conditions. The most common causes of TMD are:

  • jaw injury
  • arthritis of the jaw joint
  • jaw joint erosion
  • excessive jaw joint and muscle stimulation, such as teeth grinding or jaw clenching

Additionally, there are certain factors that won’t cause TMD on their own but can be associated with its development. These include poor posture, poor diet, lack of sleep, and chronic stress.

If you don’t have tooth issues, such as chipped or broken teeth, but you still experience jaw pain when opening your mouth or chewing, TMD is likely the cause. Although TMD is not a tooth emergency, it’s important to diagnose and treat it as soon as possible. Medication can help with pain management while avoiding certain foods and reducing stress can also aid in your recovery.

Migraines and Cluster Headaches:

Migraines most often occur around the eyes. However, they can also cause pain in other parts of the face, including the jaw. If your jaw only hurts during or after a migraine, the pain could be brought on by the strain the migraine causes to your jaw muscles and nerves.

Similarly to migraines, cluster headaches often start around the eyes. However, the pain doesn’t stay in one place. It moves down to the side of the face, frequently spreading all the way to the jaw. Cluster headaches often happen at night, and the pain can become so severe that it wakes you up. Although they most often affect only one side of the face, for some people the pain can switch from one side to another during an episode. Cluster headaches last for several hours, and many experience symptoms such as light flashes and visual auras, along with the pain.

Tooth Issues:

Tooth issues can cause jaw pain, especially if the problematic tooth is in the back of the mouth. If your tooth has been hurting for a while, and your jaw started hurting recently as well, then the sore tooth is probably the cause. Additionally, severe tooth infections can cause a strong pain in the jaw, even if your tooth didn’t hurt beforehand.

If you leave an infected tooth untreated, a tooth abscess will likely occur. The abscess won’t only affect your tooth, as the pain will spread to your gums, mouth, and jaw, as well. The symptoms of tooth abscess you should watch out for are:

  • jaw pain when chewing
  • swollen gums, upper, or lower jaw
  • bad breath
  • bitter taste in your mouth
  • extreme sensitivity to hot and cold foods

Trigeminal neuralgia:

Trigeminal neuralgia, or TN, is a chronic condition that causes pain of the trigeminal nerve. This nerve is responsible for sending pain signals from your face to your brain. However, if it malfunctions, it can lead to severe, chronic pain without an apparent cause.

The trigeminal nerve has three branches, each receiving pain signals from a different part of the face. Depending on which branch is affected, you may experience forehead, midface, or chin pain. Alternatively, all three branches can be affected, causing pain to the whole face.

TN causes sudden, stabbing pain after mild face stimulation. Acts such as brushing your teeth, putting on makeup, or shaving can cause a flare-up. If you only experience jaw pain, it’s most likely that only the bottom part of your nerve is affected by this condition.

Although it’s hard to diagnose TN, there are many treatment options available for it. Therefore, if you suspect trigeminal neuralgia may be the cause of your joint pain, make sure you visit a specialist so they can walk you through your treatment options.

What Can You Do to Relieve Jaw Pain?

If your jaw often hurts, you’re probably wondering how to relieve jaw pain at home. Although it’s best to visit your dentist to determine the source of your pain, there are several treatments you can do to lessen the pain, as well.

Firstly, you can apply moist heat packs or cold packs to the painful area. Secondly, if you grind your teeth while you sleep, wear a mouthguard to bed. And lastly, avoid foods that are too hard to chew while your jaw hurts. It’s best to rest the jaw and stick to soft foods, as you don’t want to strain the jaw muscles.

However, if the pain doesn’t subside in a day or two, you should pay a visit to an emergency dentist. They will let you know if any hidden tooth problems are the cause of your pain and suggest treatment options. Additionally, they may refer you to a rheumatologist, who will further examine the cause of your jaw pain.

Additionally, if the cause of your jaw pain is tooth or jaw injury, we suggest consulting a walk-in dentist as soon as possible. Accidents resulting in jaw pain are a dental emergency, and it’s better to treat them before they cause more harm. If you want to learn more about how to handle a dental emergency caused by an accident.


Jaw pain can have many causes, and it’s important to figure out which one you’re dealing with. By doing so, you can choose the best treatment option for you, which will speed up your recovery. If you’re experiencing any pain in your jaw, consult with your dentist to rule out any tooth problems. They may suggest a treatment plan or refer you to a rheumatologist or a TMD specialist for further consultations.

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