There are various issues that may prompt a visit to an emergency dentist. Jaw pain happens to be one of them. But, what causes this type of pain in the first place? Is it a pain that should be taken seriously, or can it be left to diminish on its own?
Jaw pain can be caused by a myriad of conditions such as physical injury, toothaches, infections, issues with nerves and blood vessels, and/or other conditions. In most cases, jaw pain does not require immediate medical attention, but oftentimes, it is usually an indicator of a serious underlying medical condition that requires treatment.
If you are suffering from persistent or severe jaw pain, you should see a dentist as soon as possible to get a proper diagnosis.
As already mentioned, jaw pain can be caused by physical injury, toothaches, infections, issues with nerves and blood vessels, and/or other related conditions. These conditions affect the muscles, joints and bones responsible for jaw movement, causing minor or severe discomfort and pain. Jaw pain is a common dental complaint that can go without any medical intervention, though some cases may require treatment.
Some known causes of jaw pain include:
- Physical Injury/Trauma (i.e.: A broken or dislocated jaw)
- Teeth Clenching and Grinding
- Dental Conditions (Abscesses, damaged teeth, tooth gaps, cavities and gum diseases)
- Neuropathic Pain (Nerve pain)
- Vascular Conditions (such as Angina and Arteritis)
- Salivary Gland Disorders
- Sinus and Ear Infections
- Stress and Mental Health Issues
The exact symptoms that accompany jaw pain may vary depending on the cause. Common symptoms of jaw pain include:
- Sensitive teeth
- A burning sensation in the mouth
- Difficulty opening and closing the mouth
- Tooth clenching and grinding
- Grinding, popping or clicking sounds
- Jaw locking
- Pain in the jaw, mouth and face
Other less common symptoms include facial swelling, fever, nerve pain (burning sensation), headaches, toothache, vertigo, dull to sharp/stabbing pain, dizziness, earaches, ringing in the ears, limited range of motion, muscle and joint tenderness, and facial pain that becomes worse when using the jaw/mouth.
To get to the root cause of jaw pain, a dentist will ask a patient about their symptoms and do a physical examination. They may also recommend an imaging study, blood test, or both.
In some instances, a doctor may also recommend psychological and psychiatric screening to rule out mental health issues. If they believe that a specific condition may be causing the pain, the doctor may recommend tests specifically for that condition.
Treatment varies depending on the cause of jaw pain. There are various treatments and medications available for jaw pain depending on its cause:
- Root canal treatment
- Tooth extraction
- Cold or Heat therapy
- Antiviral therapy to treat viral infections
- Steroid injections to reduce swelling or inflammation
- Topical, spray or oral medications for pain relief
- Muscle relaxants
- Antibiotics, where tests show a potential bacterial infection
In certain instances, surgery may be needed to rebuild the jaw or remove the damaged bone. Some physical therapies for jaw pain include:
- Stretching to increase muscle flexibility
- Relaxation therapy
- Physical therapy
- Using Mouth protectors, like mouth guards
Some jaw pain remedies that you can try at home include:
- Facial massage
- Eating soft foods and avoiding excessive jaw movements
Finally, if you want to avoid suffering from jaw pain altogether, you can adopt the following long-term health strategies:
- Seek regular dental care
- Use a mouth guard to prevent your teeth from grinding together
- Massaging the jaw area to relax the muscle and improve blood flow
- Minimise stress by engaging in exercise