What is the Reason for Jaw Pain
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint in your jaw that connects your lower jaw to the upper jaw and allows you to open and close your mouth. TMJ disorders can be very painful and can result from any number of factors including:
- Bruxism, clenching and/or grinding your teeth in your sleep
- Malocclusion, a bad bite
- Stress (which often accompanies bruxism)
- Heavy chewing
- Impacted teeth
- Tumors or cysts
- Tooth infection
- Sinus infection
- Heart disease
What are some symptoms of jaw pain?
Jaw pain can present as a persistent or intermittent pain which can be sharp and stabbing or dull and throbbing. In the event that you experience sudden jaw pain after eating something hard, that will likely subside on its own and will not require a visit to the dentist. However, throbbing pain that lasts more than one or two days is cause to see your dentist as soon as possible.
Some symptoms of jaw pain may include:
- Facial swelling or swollen lymph nodes
- Difficulty speaking or chewing
- Jaw locking
Jaw pain may also be a result of dental work or a tooth extraction. A severe toothache or impacted tooth can cause pain to radiate into your jaw on one side of your face. Jaw pain can also spread up to your ears or down into your neck, causing inflammation and additional pain. Inflammation around your neck can make even simple actions, like turning your head, uncomfortable.
Popping or clicking around the temporomandibular joint may be a sign of a TMJ disorder, which should be evaluated by your dentist. They will refer you for treatment by a physical therapist or pain clinic if a TMJ disorder is suspected.
How can I treat jaw pain at home?
Home remedies are a temporary fix. If you are experiencing persistent or severe jaw pain, you need to see your dentist as soon as possible for a professional diagnosis.*
That said, there are a few home treatments you can try. Depending on the reason for your jaw pain, you may be able to treat some of your symptoms at home. Sudden jaw pain, such as that resulting from an injury, can be eased with an ice pack or a heating pad applied to the site of the pain. Over-the-counter pain medication with anti-inflammatory properties, such as ibuprofen, can help alleviate your discomfort as long as it is not severe. Jaw pain should be treated like a sprained ankle, time and rest!
If you are experiencing chronic jaw pain and suspect that stress is to blame, reducing your intake of caffeine and using a night guard when you sleep can both help relieve some of the tension applied to your jaw during the night. You might also consider calming techniques such as meditation and yoga to reduce daily stress levels.
If pain in your jaw lasts more than a day or two, or if the pain is new but severe, reach out to your dentist for an evaluation.