Reasons You May Be in Pain: Your Jaw

Neha Pathak, MD's medical review in 2020 September 1

Jaw pain may indicate a simple toothache or even something more serious like a heart attack. The temporomandibular joints, or TMJs, are a pair of joints that connect your jawbone, also known as a mandible, to your skull. You can open and close your mouth thanks to these joints, which are located just in front of your ears.

Your teeth and gums, which are sensitive to pressure, heat, and cold, are also held in your jaw. If you fail to keep them clean, they may also contract an infection.

TMJ conditions

One of the most frequent causes of jaw pain is this. TMJ disorders may affect 1 in 8 people. It affects more women than men.

TMJ disorders can be caused by:

  • Damage to your jaw
  • Specific ailments or conditions, such as arthritis
  • Your teeth may be clenched or ground.
  • Your jaw is not aligning properly.
  • Inflammation of the jaw's surrounding muscles

Stress can also make it worse.

The following are signs of TMJ disorders:

  • Sound of your mouth clicking when you open it
  • Your jaw, face, or ears may hurt or hurt.
  • Chronic headaches
  • Your ears are ringing.
  • Dizziness
  • Vision issues
  • Difficulty chewing or discomfort when chewing
  • Clenching of the jaw

Get your TMJ examined if you suspect that you may have a problem. Typically, if you're in pain, your doctor or dentist may advise you to take over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. They might advise you to stop chewing gum or biting your nails, as well as to strengthen your jaw muscles through exercise. A plastic bite guard may also be purchased to prevent you from grinding your teeth. Sometimes, prescription medication or surgery are required to resolve the issue.


Your jaw can get knocked out of place or broken, just like any other bone. An impact to the jaw can lead to:

Typically, over-the-counter pain relievers or actions like eating soft foods will help you feel better as you recover. However, you'll need medical attention if the pain doesn't go away or if you can't open and close your mouth properly. Sometimes, problems with teeth alignment can also result in jaw pain. Learn more about the various overbite and jaw pain therapies available.

Dental issues

A number of dental problems can cause jaw pain. They consist of:

  • Tooth pain that is typically caused by a cavity or an abscess
  • Teeth that are chipped, crowded, or particularly sensitive to pressure or temperature
  • Gum disease can cause jawbone damage.
  • Wisdom teeth erupting
  • Crooked teeth
  • You may be clenching or grinding your teeth.

For these issues, contact your dentist right away. Until then, you can use dental floss to remove any food particles from the area around the sore tooth and rinse your mouth with warm water.

Joint issues

Your temporomandibular joints may be affected by rheumatoid arthritis, a form of arthritis. Due to the autoimmune nature of the condition, your body unintentionally attacks healthy tissue, causing it to swell. That could hurt your jaw's spongy, soft cartilage, which prevents it from clicking and clicking, making it feel stiff and sore.


Diseases have been largely eradicated by vaccines. But some people continue to experience them, and some of the signs include jaw pain.

  • Mumps It is contracted from a virus. The saliva-producing glands on the side of your mouth swell as a result. Your jaw might be difficult to move due to the pain.
  • Tetanus This bacterial infection spreads through cuts or skin scratches. Your jaw muscles may feel tight or stiff as a warning sign. A common name for the spasms is "lockjaw." You could spend weeks in the hospital due to this serious illness.

Chest pain

Although it may seem strange, jaw pain occasionally indicates a heart attack. Pain that originates close to a group of nerves, such as your heart, can be felt elsewhere on the body. We refer to this as referred pain. Jaw pain may be the only sign of a heart attack for some people.

Referred jaw pain may also be a symptom of joint issues in the shoulders or lower back.

Sinus issues

You may have a condition called chronic sinusitis if the spaces inside your nose and under your eyes (your sinuses) remain swollen and inflamed for longer than three months, even with treatment. Chronic sinusitis can also cause aching in your upper jaw, but its main symptoms are difficulty breathing through your nose and tenderness around your eyes.

Nervosa trigeminalis

When a blood vessel presses against the trigeminal nerve, which transmits signals from your face to your brain, this excruciating condition may develop. Additionally, multiple sclerosis may be the culprit. Trigeminal neuralgia typically affects one side of the cheek or jaw and can cause stabbing pain or an electric shock. You may not be able to eat or drink because of the pain if it is severe enough.

Recurring headaches

These are extremely painful headaches that tend to occur in predictable patterns or frequently within short periods of time. They frequently wake you up at night and cause excruciating pain on one side of your head. Cluster headaches typically affect the region around the eyes and temples, but they can also cause pain in the jaw.


This infection affects bones and occurs. Anaerobic osteomyelitis, a condition, can impact your lower jaw (or mandible). If the infection is left untreated, it may cut off the blood supply to your jaw and cause the bone tissue there to suffer permanent damage.

Cysts or tumors

These are growths in the soft tissues of your mouth and face, or in the jawbone. These growths, also known as odontogenic tumors and cysts, can affect your teeth but are typically not cancerous. Surgery is typically advised to remove them.

What's causing your jaw pain will determine how to treat it, but a few things may ease general discomfort:

  • Taking a jaw pause
  • Pain relievers sold over-the-counter, such as inflammatory drugs and analgesics
  • Prescription drugs, such as painkilling antidepressants or muscle relaxants
  • 3 or 4 times per day, apply cold compresses for 10 to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Gentle exercises to tone and stretch your jaw or face muscles
  • High-powered sound waves known as ultrasound can be used to treat pain and swelling.
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