Chances are, you’ve experienced jaw pain at some point. It may be a sign of something as simple as a toothache or as serious as a heart attack. Stress can worsen it too — something that’s important to remember as we embark on a busy holiday season! In today’s blog post, we want to consider four common causes of jaw pain as well as potential treatment options.
Ouch! Why does my jaw hurt?
The most common reason for jaw pain is a TMJ disorder, with one in eight people suffering from this condition. The temporomandibular joints, or TMJs, connect your jawbone to your skull. Common causes of TMJ disorders include an injury to your jaw, certain illnesses or conditions (like arthritis), grinding or clenching your teeth, jaw misalignment, and inflammation in the muscles around your jaw. If you have a TMJ disorder, you may hear a clicking sound when you open and close your mouth or experience headaches, dizziness, and pain when chewing.
Like any bone, you can also break your jaw or knock it out of place. If this trauma occurs, you may have bruises, swelling, pain, and loose or knocked-out teeth. You can treat the discomfort with over-the-counter medications, but if the soreness persists or you can’t open and close your mouth correctly, seek medical care.
Of course, dental problems may also lead to jaw pain. Possible issues include a toothache caused by a cavity; teeth that are cracked or crowded; gum disease; misaligned teeth; and newly-emerged wisdom teeth. For immediate relief, rinse your mouth with warm water and floss around any sore teeth. Schedule an appointment with your dentist for further evaluation.
Some health conditions and diseases exacerbate jaw pain. For instance, if you have rheumatoid arthritis, the joint problem may impact your TMJs and cause a stiff and sore jaw. Additionally, mumps cause the salivary glands to swell, making it difficult to move your jaw. An early sign of tetanus, a bacterial infection, is a tight or stiff jaw. As mentioned earlier, jaw pain can sometimes signal a heart attack. Pain that begins near a cluster of nerves, like your heart, can be felt in other places throughout the body (called referred pain). For some individuals, jaw pain is the only symptom of a heart attack.
So what treatments are available for jaw pain?
Treatment options depend on the cause of jaw pain, so it’s important to get a diagnosis from a healthcare professional. As you wait for your appointment, some at-home care options include:
- Resting your jaw
- Over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Prescription medicines, like antidepressants or muscle relaxants
- Cold compresses for 10 to 20 minutes, up to 4 times a day
- Gently opening and closing your jaw to stretch and strengthen the muscle
- Ultrasound, or high-powered sound waves, to help with pain and swelling.
Call us at 407.834.0330 to schedule your appointment today! Check out our Dental Blog to learn more about topics like restorative dentistry, wisdom teeth, and teeth whitening.