Common Causes of Jaw Pain

  • May 20 2022

Jaw pain can bring your day to a grinding halt. Life can become much more challenging when everyday activities like eating and speaking are made difficult. There are many potential causes of jaw pain. These are some of the most common causes and how you can approach dealing with them.

  • TMJ Disorder

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects the lower jawbone to the skull. It’s vital for eating and speaking, which means it sees heavy use every day. TMJ disorders can arise from a variety of causes, leading to symptoms like:

  • Tenderness of the jaw
  • Clicking or popping noises
  • Earaches
  • Difficulty opening or closing your mouth

Many factors can contribute to TMJ disorders. Arthritis and other joint damage could be behind the pain. Dental issues like grinding or misalignment can also play a part.

In general, reaching out to a dentist is the best path forward for anyone who may have a TMJ disorder. The symptoms could be due to other dental issues as well, and a dentist is the best professional to make that assessment.

  • Damaged Teeth

Your teeth can develop a wide range of issues that can manifest as significant jaw pain. This pain can become chronic or only arise during eating or speaking. Tooth problems like cavities and gum disease can often result in jaw pain.

In some cases, impacted wisdom teeth could be behind the pain. This last set of molars tends to emerge in young adults, often without enough room in the mouth. That leads to constant pressure against teeth that can be felt as pain at the back of the jaw. It can feel a lot like TMJ pain but lower on the side of the head.

  • Sinusitis

Sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses, the empty cavities that connect to the nasal passage. These infections can be short-lived or become chronic. Patients suffering from sinusitis could experience symptoms like:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Excess mucus at the nose or throat
  • Pressure, swelling, or pain in the face
  • Fatigue
  • Jaw pain

The sinuses are in the front of the face, arranged around and above the nose. The maxillary sinuses reach towards the side of the face and can cause pain in that area. If jaw pain does appear to be caused by sinusitis, the dentist will refer the patient to a general practitioner for treatment.

  • Arthritis

You might be surprised to learn that arthritis can contribute to issues with the temporomandibular joint, often called TMJ. Arthritis can create or worsen any existing inflammation in your jaw, as well as cause tenderness and pain when chewing. In more advanced cases, patients often experience misalignment of the jaw altogether.

  • Rarer Causes

The previous examples are all very common causes of jaw pain. However, there are also rarer causes that could be behind the pain for a particular patient.

Jaw pain can be caused by trigeminal neuralgia. This condition affects the trigeminal nerves on either side of the face. The condition can cause jaw pain, along with pain in other areas of the face. Anti-seizure medication and other treatments are available for this condition.

Osteomyelitis is another potential rare cause of jaw pain. It is a type of bacterial infection that affects bone. The jawbone can become infected in this way, causing pain and swelling. Further symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Redness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty opening or closing the mouth
  • Numbness in the jaw

This type of infection typically only occurs after dental surgery. Antibiotics are generally the most effective treatment.

Tumors and cysts in the area can also lead to jaw pain. While these rarer causes are possible, most instances of jaw pain are typically caused by TMJ disorders, dental issues, or sinusitis.

Dental Care in Queens, NY

Payam Cohen, DDS, PC, is a practicing dentist who provides a wide range of restorative and cosmetic dental procedures here in Queens, NY. If you’re concerned about jaw pain, Dr. Cohen can evaluate your condition and provide effective treatment options to meet your unique needs. Contact our office today.

Categories: General Dentistry