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What Jaw Pain Means: What Causes It and How to Treat It

Pain in your jaw can be a sign of various dental issues such as TMJ disorder, toothache, or a more serious problem. Today our dentists in Manitoba discuss some of the reasons why your jaw might be hurting and what you can do to help relieve the pain. 

What Causes Jaw Pain?

Jaw pain can indicate a handful of dental conditions such as TMJ Disorder, toothache, or another possible more serious issue. 

TMJ Disorders

TMJ Disorder is one of the most common causes of jaw pain. The temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull (located just below your temple, in front of your ear). This hinge plays an important part in your everyday life, such as letting you breathe, eat, and talk. 

TMJ Disorders can happen when there is a problem with your jaw or facial muscles. If the disorder advances to a severe state after you start feeling pain in this area, you might not even be able to move this joint.

Causes of TMJ Disorders can include:

  • Injury to the jaw
  • Misalignment of the jaw
  • Certain conditions or illnesses such as arthritis
  • Inflammation in the muscles surrounding your jaw

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder can include:

  • Pain or ache around your jaw, face, or ears
  • Ringing in ears
  • Constant headaches
  • Locking or popping in your jaw
  • Vision problems
  • Dizziness

If you think you have a problem with your TMJ, visit your dentist who will be able to recommend treatment or exercises. Sometimes, prescription drugs or surgery might be required to help correct the issue.


Though we get many routine vaccinations in childhood that have fortunately gotten rid of diseases, it’s still possible to get diseases that can cause jaw pain and other symptoms.

Tetanus is a bacterial infection that can cause your jaw muscles to stiffen or feel tight. This serious condition can result in spending weeks in hospital.


Just like other bones in your body, your jaw can become fractured or dislocated. After taking a blow to the jaw, you could experience:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruises
  • Loose or missing teeth

Depending on the injury, you might have to see your dentist if the pain doesn’t get better if you are missing teeth or you’re unable to chew or open and close your mouth. Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen could help, in addition to dental treatment, if necessary.

Dental Conditions

A handful of dental problems can lead to a sore jaw. Such as:

  • Teeth grinding
  • Misaligned teeth
  • Wisdom teeth erupting
  • Fractured or crowded teeth
  • Toothache (typically with an abscess or cavity as the underlying cause)
  • Gum disease (which can cause your jaw bone to become damaged)

These issues should be addressed as quickly as possible, and fractured teeth are dental emergencies, so you need to see your dentist immediately. Until then, keep the tooth that hurts clean and try rinsing with warm water.

Cysts or Tumors

Not typically cancerous, odontogenic cysts or tumors can quickly start impacting your teeth. Surgery might be required to remove them.

Cluster Headaches

One of the most painful types of headache, cluster headaches can result in pain around or behind one eye, with pain radiating to reach the jaw.


A type of infection that occurs in the bone, this condition can impact your mandible (lower jaw). Referred to as anaerobic osteomyelitis, it can cut off blood supply to your jaw and damage bone tissue if left untreated.

How to Get Rid of Jaw Pain?

At-Home Care

  • Apply a warm, wet washcloth or ice pack covered in cloth to your jaw (10 minutes on, 10 minutes off)
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
  • Rub the affected joint. Massage the joint using your fingers, pressing the sore areas of your jaw and moving to the side of your neck.
  • Avoid caffeine (which can potentially contribute to muscle tension)

Dental Care

If your jaw pain continues after at-home remedies, book an appointment with your dentist.

At Assiniboine Dental Group, our dentists will discuss your symptoms with you, complete a comprehensive oral examination, explain possible treatment options, and develop a custom treatment plan that could include a mouthguard or other measures depending on your needs. 

In rare cases, oral surgery for TMJ Disorder might be recommended to help fix the problem for those with severe pain that suffer from structural problems in their jaw and haven’t found relief with other remedies or treatments.

Are you suffering from jaw pain? Contact our dentists in Manitoba to schedule your appointment today.

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