Jaw pain can feel very debilitating, making it difficult to open your jaw comfortably so you can eat and speak. Several factors can cause jaw pain, as it can be due to your jaw, teeth, or sinuses, and possible causes are listed below.
Your temporomandibular joints hinge your lower jaw in place and allow it to move comfortably from side to side and up and down. When there is a problem with these joints, it is called temporomandibular joint disorder, TMD, or sometimes TMJ. TMD can be caused by the muscles controlling your jaws, an injury to the jaw joint, or arthritis in this joint. It can cause jaw pain on the right side, jaw pain on the left side, or both. Pain in your jaw caused by damage to the jaw joints or muscles can be due to clenching and grinding your teeth (bruxism) or trauma. Most cases of jaw pain are due to TMD.
Your sinuses are located on either side of your nose, just above your upper jaw near your upper back teeth. They are air-filled cavities, but if infected due to bacteria or a virus, the sinuses can fill with mucus, putting pressure on the upper jaw and causing pain. If you have sinus pain, it’s worth seeing your doctor for a prescription to eliminate the infection and relieve the pain in your jaws.
Usually, cluster headaches cause pain around the eyes, but this can affect the jaw. A cluster headache is one of the most painful kinds of headache.
The trigeminal nerve provides sensation to the face, including the upper and lower jaws. If it becomes compressed, it can cause jaw pain.
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Various home remedies can help relieve jaw pain, such as using moist heat packs to help relax tense jaw muscles. Using an ice pack can provide relief. Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can relieve discomfort. You could try gently massaging the jaw using your index and middle finger to rub the area in front of your ear around the jaw joint or gently massaging the muscles in the side of your neck.
Stress and anxiety can cause bruxism, so try to reduce your stress levels if this is the case. Exercising can be helpful, and other options include yoga and meditation.
Try to avoid eating foods that are very tough or chewy, or too crunchy, which could strain your jaw joints. Some people find it helpful to avoid caffeinated foods that could contribute to muscle tension.
While it can be helpful to try non-invasive therapies first, if you still have jaw pain, please come and talk to us. We can gently assess your jaw joints and facial muscles, take diagnostic x-rays, and if we think the problem is due to your temporomandibular joint, we can prescribe a suitable treatment.
One very effective treatment is a mouthguard made to fit over your upper or lower teeth and prevent your teeth from clenching and grinding, placing your jaws in a more relaxed position and relieving pain and inflammation in the jaw joints.
Alternatively, if a mouthguard isn’t effective, we can prescribe muscle relaxants to relieve jaw tension, but these aren’t always effective for people with TMD. Another option is Botox injections, as these can help overactive jaw muscles, relieving jaw pain due to TMD, and the results can last for several months at a time.
It’s rare for surgery to be needed, and it is usually only considered when someone is in severe pain or has structural problems with the jaw joint.