Jaw Pain When Opening Mouth: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments

Human jaws consist of temporomandibular joints present bilaterally. The joints are made up of two bones, the head of the mandible bone below and temporal bone of the skull above. The bones are separated by an articular disc dividing the joint into two separate compartments.

Normal mouth opening is approx. 40-43 mm and any functional damage to the jaw joints may lead to reduction in mouth opening.

Jaw Pain When Opening Mouth

Symptoms Associated with Jaw Pain when Opening Mouth

Along with jaw pain while opening the mouth, the other associated symptoms include:

  • Facial pain and tenderness of jaws
  • Jaws get locked while opening or closing mouth
  • Pain in ears and in periauricular region
  • Pain in chewing food
  • Disrupted speech
  • Pain radiating to shoulders
  • Associated headaches

Causes of Jaw Pain when Opening Mouth

There are multiple causes of jaw pain. It may be due to some abnormal structural defect or injury to the temporomandibular joints causing pain in mouth opening.

Other causes are:

  • Temporomandibular joint and muscle pain disorder (TMD)
  • Injury to the jaws during road accidents, sports (direct injury to the jaws while playing), or other physical activities.
  • Radiating jaw pain from facial muscles
  • Disc displacement causing jaw pain
  • Osteoarthritis of jaw
  • Rheumatoid arthritis of condyles
  • Infection of synovial fluid along with capsulitis
  • Jaw pain caused due to excessive pressure application during a dental procedure or any other craniofacial surgical interventions
  • Dental infections like dental abscesses may cause radiating pain in the jaw, commonly named as referred pain.

Certain abnormal jaw movements can also trigger jaw pain like:

  • Excessive nocturnal grinding of teeth
  • Bruxism or jaw clenching during emotional stress or disbalance.

Apart from these causes, there are more factors that attribute to jaw pain, such as:

  • Cluster headaches that are very common in adolescence and mid age group generation, are characterized by severe pain in one side of the head, around the eyes, that often radiate to jaws causing jaw pain.
  • Sinusitis (infection of sinus cavity) can cause accumulation of pus that generates excessive intra sinus pressure that leads to jaw pain.
  • Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic condition where the trigeminal nerve is compressed by a swollen blood vessel or due to multiple sclerosis that damages myelin sheath of the nerve.
  • Often, jaw pain is associated with myocardial infarction, where the pain is a referred pain and is radiated to shoulders, back, and left arm along with chest tightness.

Treatment for Jaw Pain when Opening Mouth

Medications for Jaw Pain When Opening Mouth:

  • Over the counter analgesics like acetaminophen and Ibuprofen are helpful in managing pain.
  • If pain is due to dental infection, treatment of the infection with antibiotics such as Amoxicillin in combination with serratiopeptidase can be given.
  • Muscle relaxants can be administered to relieve muscle tension.
  • Use of mouth guards at night, helps in prevention of bruxism or nocturnal teeth gritting. These are custom made trays worn on upper and lower jaw at night.
  • Botox injections are also taken by patients for jaw pain. Botox is a neurotransmitter that prevents the muscles to strain. Effect from one injection can last for 10 months and may require a second injection later.

Home Remedies for Jaw Pain When Opening Mouth:

  • For immediate pain relief, applying ice packs over the localized pain area for about 10 minutes and re-applying after some time is the a useful home remedy.
  • Apply moist heat on the affected pain area by dipping a washed cloth in warm water and applying it on jaws for pain relief. This helps the facial muscles to relax and relieves pain. These moist heat packs or ice packs are also available in pharmacies and online sites.
  • One of the best home remedies for jaw pain when opening the mouth is to massage the muscles in circular motion over the jaw joint with fingers.
  • It is advisable to follow a healthy life style to reduce emotional and mental stress.
  • Practicing yoga, meditation and some physical activity helps avoiding the long-term sickness related to jaw pain.
  • Maintenance of oral hygiene also plays an important role in avoiding dental illness that may cause jaw pain.
  • Avoiding crunchy, hard or chewy food ingredients can prevent jaw strains that may cause discomfort.

Jaw pain when opening mouth can be really troublesome since it also hinders the process of eating and chewing. Hence, timely diagnosis and treatment is very important to avoid the discomfort and further worsening of the condition.

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