Top 5 Causes of Jaw Pain
Often, jaw pain can be caused by pain elsewhere, sometimes in the head. A regular headache usually doesn’t cause jaw pain; however, in some cases, a cluster headache can be felt in the jaw more noticeably than in the top of the head. A solid sign of a cluster headache is sharp, stabbing pain that comes on suddenly and lasts for about 30 minutes.
2. Tooth Pain
Jaw pain can often be a result of tooth pain, or pain in your teeth. If you experience jaw pain caused by dental issues, you might not clean your teeth often enough or you might have a cavity. It’s a good rule of thumb to visit the dentist if you have any pain in or near your mouth, but jaw pain specifically can be caused by dental issues.
We don’t often think about it, but it’s possible to harm the jaw just as we might harm or injure another part of the body. If you have broken, dislocated, or otherwise injured your jaw, you will experience jaw pain. Your jaw might swell, bleed, or become stiff. If this is the case, you need to see a doctor to make sure you don’t need treatment; treatment for a jaw injury can include relocation or even surgery, and it might require immobilization of your jaw as it heals.
4. Clenching and Grinding
Many people clench and grind their teeth — some don’t realize they do it. It can be a result of stress or frustration, but some people grind or clench their teeth as they sleep. Either way, it can lead to jaw pain and a host of other issues, such as broken teeth or receding gums, so make sure you seek help for this problem.
Sometimes, we simply use our jaw muscles too much, and it leads to jaw pain. Have you ever felt pain in your jaw when you’ve smiled more than usual? It sounds funny, but even having too much of a good time can cause jaw pain. If this is the case, the issue will subside on its own, usually in less than 24 hours.
Possible Health Conditions Related to Jaw Pain
1. TMJ Disorders
Also known as temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders, TMJ disorders can be felt in the chewing muscles that connect your skull and your lower jaw. These disorders have a number of causes, including stress on the joints, issues with bite, grinding, bad posture, and arthritis. Other symptoms include headache, earache, a clicking or popping sound that occurs when the mouth opens or closes, or difficulty opening the mouth, closing the mouth, biting, or chewing. There are many different types of TMJ disorders, and your doctor can determine whether you have one and how to cope with it.
2. Trigeminal Neuralgia
Trigeminal neuralgia is a condition that causes mild sensations on the face or in the mouth to result in intense pain. Almost anything can trigger the pain when you have trigeminal neuralgia, from washing your face to brushing your teeth. This disorder affects the trigeminal nerve, and most people start out by having small attacks. However, this can become much worse over time, causing debilitating pain. It is important to see a doctor when the pain continues to occur and/or worsens over time. Treatment can involve medication or, if it has become severe, surgery.
3. Heart Attack
Most people know that a numbness, tingling feeling, or shooting pain in the left arm is a sign of a heart attack, but this sign presents most frequently in men. In women, jaw pain is one of the most common symptoms of a heart attack. Most women who have had heart attacks say they experienced a burning pain somewhere in the neck, jaw, stomach, throat, or back. This is an important symptom for all women to know about, so they can be aware of what their bodies tell them, especially if they have a family history of heart disease, diabetes, or obesity. If you experience jaw pain along with any of the other signs of a heart attack, you should seek medical help immediately.
Osteomyelitis is a type of bone infection that occurs when bacteria spreads to the bones from infected skin or muscles. Common risk factors for osteomyelitis include a weak immune system, injury, intravenous drug use, and diabetes. Bone pain is another symptom, and infection localized in or near the jaw causes jaw pain. With osteomyelitis, people might experience fever, chills, sweating, redness in the area of the pain, and potentially even an open wound. This issue requires treatment with antibiotics, and a doctor might need to perform surgery if the antibiotics don’t work or if the infection is very severe.
Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Your Jaw Pain
- How long have you experienced jaw pain?
- Have you injured the area at all recently, perhaps by playing sports?
- Is your pain constant, stabbing, or burning, or does it feel different? How would you describe your pain?
- Do you have any additional symptoms, such as headaches, toothaches, earaches, fever, etc.?
- Do you find it hard to open and close your mouth?
- How long does your jaw pain usually last?
- Is your pain becoming more intense than it used to be?
Jaw Pain May Also Be Known as
- Mouth pain
- Chin pain
- National Library of Medicine. Cluster Headache. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000786.htm
- HealthLine. Broken or Dislocated Jaw. https://www.healthline.com/health/broken-or-dislocated-jaw
- National Library of Medicine. Bruxism. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001413.htm
- National Library of Medicine. TMJ Disorders. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001227.htm
- Mayo Clinic. Trigeminal Neuralgia. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/trigeminal-neuralgia/symptoms-causes/syc-20353344
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Women and Heart Disease Fact Sheet. https://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_women_heart.htm
- National Library of Medicine. Osteomyelitis. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000437.htm