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Jaw pain may be painful, limiting your ability to eat and talk. Treatment varies depending on the reason and severity, but it can range from using an ice pack to adopting lifestyle changes, using medications, and, in rare circumstances, getting surgery. While there are several potential causes of jaw discomfort, temporomandibular joint disease is the most typical culprit. Other common reasons include arthritis, periodontal disease, and infections, such as sinusitis or tetanus.

What is Jaw Pain?

Jaw discomfort can be defined as an aching, stiffness, or soreness in your jawbone or the area surrounding your ears. Pain in the jaw can be an acute symptom caused by various factors, including the jaw joint (temporomandibular joint, or TMJ), surrounding muscles, or referred pain from other parts of the body. In the UK, millions of individuals suffer from jaw discomfort regularly. Jaw discomfort can range from minor to severe, affecting your quality of life. Many things might cause jaw discomfort, including grinding your teeth, gum disease, or a toothache. However, jaw discomfort can also indicate a major problem, such as a fractured or dislocated jaw or a heart attack. Jaw pain can affect daily activities including eating, speaking, and yawning. It may differ in intensity from slight discomfort to severe pain.

What Causes Jaw Pain?

The most common cause of jaw pain is an abnormality or injury to the jaw joint, although there are other causes. Here are a few causes why people have jaw pain:

1. Temporomandibular Joint and Muscle Disorder (TMD)

TMD jaw discomfort may result from several factors. Additionally, many causes of TMD might occur simultaneously. Causes of TMD include:

  • Pain is caused by the muscles that control jaw movement
  • An injury to the jaw joint
  • Excessive jaw joint stimulation
  • A misplaced disc that often helps cushion the movements of the jaw
  • Arthritis in the cushioning disc around the jaw joint
  • Grinding your teeth during the night
  • Unconsciously clenching your jaw due to stress and worry
  • Injury to the jaw joint, such as a sports-related concussion

2. Cluster headaches

Cluster headaches usually induce discomfort behind or around one of the eyes, yet the pain can radiate to the jaw. Of all the headaches, cluster headaches are the most painful.

3. Issues with the sinuses

The sinuses are air-filled cavities positioned around the jaw joint. If the sinuses get infected with a germ, such as a virus or bacteria, excess mucus can build up and have pressure on the jaw joint, causing pain.

4. Toothache

Severe tooth infections, often known as dental abscesses, can sometimes cause pain that extends to the jaw.

5. Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia is a disorder that is most usually caused by nerve compression on the trigeminal nerve, which gives sensation to the entire face, including the upper and lower jaws.

6. Heart Attack

A heart attack can cause pain in various parts of the body, including the limbs, back, neck, and jaw. During a heart attack, women are more likely to have jaw discomfort on the left side of their faces. If you encounter any of the following symptoms, dial 911 right away and ask to be taken to the hospital:

  • Chest pain
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Feeling faint

What are the Symptoms of Jaw Pain?

  • Stiffness in the joints of your jaw. These joints are located on both sides of your face, just in front of your ears. They let you move your jaw up, down, and side to side by joining your lower jaw to your skull.
  • Your jaw is throbbing or aching
  • Intense pain in your jaw following an injury
  • pain that travels to your jaw from your shoulders or chest
  • This might be an indication of a heart attack. Emergency medical care is needed for heart attacks
  • If you have this symptom, dial 911
  • Trismus, or painful opening of the mouth, is experienced

How do Healthcare Professionals Treat Jaw Pain?

When treating jaw discomfort, the majority of doctors will first suggest non-invasive treatments. If you are still experiencing jaw discomfort after attempting these procedures, you should consult your dentist. You may require more treatments to alleviate your discomfort.

  • Mouthguard: A mouthguard is a custom-fitted plastic dental guard that is worn on either your upper or lower teeth. While a dentist can create you one that could fit better and last longer, you can buy one from a drugstore. Wearing one before bedtime can help prevent you from unknowingly grinding your teeth.
  • Muscle relaxers: If the mouthguard fails to relieve your discomfort, your dentist might recommend muscle relaxants to help ease jaw strain. However, they do not always benefit patients with TMD.
  • Botox Cosmetic Injections: Botox Cosmetic injections are a more invasive kind of treatment. The botulinum toxin in Botox, when injected into the jaw muscles, could prevent your jaw muscles from clenching and perhaps assist reduce jaw discomfort caused by TMD. These injections might need to be repeated later on and will continue for several months at a time.
  • Jaw surgery: In extremely rare cases, an oral surgeon might recommend jaw surgery to address issues with TMD. Usually, this treatment is limited to patients who have excruciating pain or discomfort brought on by structural issues with the jaw joint.

Conclusion

Your everyday life might be greatly impacted by jaw discomfort, which can make speaking and eating difficult. To get the right treatment, it’s important to understand the many reasons, which might include TMD, sinus problems, or even heart attacks. Botox injections or surgery may be necessary in more severe cases, however, initially, non-invasive treatments like mouthguards and muscle relaxants are frequently used. If you have persistent jaw discomfort, you should see a dental professional to figure out what’s causing it and how you might get well. Keep in mind that treating jaw discomfort right away can reduce problems and improve your overall health.