Understanding Jaw Pain

Jaw Pain constitutes any pain or discomfort which involves all the parts of the jaw namely the mandible, temporomandibular joint, and the surrounding soft tissues. The temporomandibular joint is a joint which joins the lower part of the jaw to the temporal bone of skull. The function of the temporomandibular joint is to bring the upper and the lower jaws together. This joint is one of the most frequently used joints in the body. Jaw Pain may occur all of a sudden or may develop over time depending on the underlying cause. The affected individual may feel a dull ache to the jaw or in some cases it may painful to the extent that the individual may find it difficult to use the mouth for eating purposes. Painful jaw could be due to numerous factors like eating or swallowing and in case if an individual is suffering from a condition called trigeminal neuralgia then the pain in the jaw area can be triggered by simply touching the area. The root cause of Jaw Pain or Painful Jaw is excessive stress to the temporomandibular joint thereby causing temporomandibular joint disorder. There are muscles, tendons, and ligaments surrounding this joint and a disorder of this joint can be caused by any repetitive stress, injury, or natural wear and tear. Jaw Pain or painful jaw at times also acts as an indicator for some other disease condition like rheumatoid arthritis, infections, neuralgia. In some cases, if the jaw pain is accompanied by chest pain radiating to the left arm and shoulders then it may signify a myocardial infarction which is a medical emergency.

Jaw Pain

Medical Conditions That Can Cause Painful Jaw?

Jaw Pain is an indicator of various diseases. If an individual experiences pain on both sides of jaw or in front of the ear then more often than not it signifies a temporomandibular disorder. Apart from this pain, temporomandibular joint disorder may also cause jaw tenderness and trouble with mouth opening. Some of the medical conditions associated with jaw pain are:

Some of the potential serious causes of Jaw Pain are:

What Are The Symptoms Accompanying Jaw Pain?

Depending on the underlying cause of Jaw Pain there may be other symptoms associated with this pain. Some of the symptoms of painful jaw are:

  • Dizziness
  • Pain in the ears
  • Facial Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Inability to open the mouth completely
  • Neck pain
  • Popping sound with chewing
  • Shoulder pain
  • Swelling of the jaw or face
  • Numbness of the tongue
  • Tooth pain.

Some of the accompanying symptoms which may point to a potentially serious condition are:

  • Chest pain radiating to the left shoulder and arm
  • Dyspnea
  • Dysphagia
  • Jaw Locking
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Profuse Sweating.

Diagnosing Jaw Pain

Jaw Pain

In order to diagnose an underlying cause of Jaw Pain, the treating physician will ask the affected individual some questions which may help the physician come to a cause for the Jaw Pain. These questions are:

  • How long has the individual been having the jaw pain?
  • Did the pain in the jaw start out of the blue or did it develop over time?
  • Is the jaw pain constant or does it come and go?
  • Is there any jaw pain with activities like eating or yawning?
  • Are there any other symptoms along with Jaw Pain?

 It is advisable to provide a complete history along with any prior medical or surgical history and a detailed family history in order to help the physician identify a cause for the Jaw Pain. It is also important to mention use of any medications which may be triggering the pain.

Treatment And Ways To Reduce Jaw Pain?

Treatment of jaw pain largely depends of its cause. If the pain in the jaw area is due to trigeminal neuralgia or impacted tooth or jaw joint disorder then treating that respective medical condition will take care of the pain in the jaw.

The information mentioned below can help you deal with painful jaw:

  • The best way to get rid of the jaw pain is to release pressure on the jaw muscles and to do this first one needs to put the fingers on the head so that the thumbs are behind the ears and gently massage the area for about half a minute by rubbing the muscles along the jaw line so as to increase the blood flow and relax the muscles. Then, slowly raise the head to fully extend the neck and open the mouth as much as possible. Remove the hands but keep the mouth open for about half a minute.
  • The next thing one can do is to gently open and close the mouth repetitively. This helps with range of motion of the mouth and increases blood circulation to the painful jaw area.
  • Another way to manage the jaw pain is by managing the stress that an individual has since it may cause the jaws to clench and may also cause teeth grinding which are common causes of painful jaw. There are various methods of managing stress like yoga and meditation which one can easily incorporate in daily lives.
  • One can also try pain medications like Tylenol or ibuprofen for control of pain and inflammation in jaw.
  • Certain mouth gels which contain Benzocaine and the like also provide pain relief.
  • A natural way of jaw pain relief is by soaking a cotton ball in oil of cloves and put in the mouth. It is quite effective with pain relief. Clove oil is readily available in the market
  • Avoid triggers like eating chewing gum, or foods which need a lot of chewing like beef, nuts, or candy.
  • Another way is to soak a cloth in warm water and place it on the jaw as this increases blood flow and reduces pain
  • One can also apply ice packs to the jaw for 15 to 20 minutes two to three times a day for pain relief and control inflammation.
  • If the above methods are not significantly helpful then another option is to consult a dentist for a bite guard and the like to prevent clenching of the jaw and teeth grinding. Also, dentist will be required for correction of any misalignment of the tooth or to correct any tooth decay.

What Are Some Of The Complications Of Jaw Pain?

Complications due to Jaw Pain solely depend on the cause of the pain. If the pain in Jaw is caused due to some problem with the jaw joint then there can be permanent damage to the joint and surrounding tissues. Some of the other potential complications of Jaw Pain are:

  • Requirement for jaw replacement
  • Poor nutrition and vitamin deficiencies due to problems with eating due to Jaw Pain.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: July 21, 2015

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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