Jaw pain is often described as throbbing, uncomfortable pain. It can happen all of a sudden, or it can start off mild and become more intense over time. Though, the specific symptoms vary depending on the cause. A jawbone is also called a mandible and it is attached to your skull at a pair of joints called temporomandibular joints, or TMJs. They are located just in front of your ears.
These are the joints that open and close your mouth. Our jaws also hold our teeth and gums, which may be sensitive to heat, cold, or pressure. Our teeth and gums can also get infected if we don’t keep them clean. The underlying issue causing jaw pain needs to be identified in order to be treated. Here are a few causes of jaw pain to look out for:
- Teeth Grinding: Grinding your teeth can cause severe damage to your teeth and is one of the most common causes of jaw pain. Grinding is when you clench your teeth. People grind their teeth due to stress and many people aren’t aware they are doing it because a lot of them do it while they sleep. If left untreated, it can lead to a number of dental issues. Some ways to help with teeth grinding is to practice stress-relieving exercises or at least wear a mouthguard at night.
- Temporomandibular Disorder: Temporomandibular disorder, also known as TMD, affects the temporomandibular joint of the jaw. In addition to pain, this disorder can cause clicking sounds in the jaw when opening the mouth or chewing. In more serious cases, the disorder can cause the jaw to be stuck in a permanently open or closed position.
- Joint Problems: If you have rheumatoid arthritis, it could attack your temporomandibular joints. RA is an autoimmune disease, which means your body is attacking healthy tissue and irritating it. This can damage the soft, spongy cartilage that keeps your jaw moving efficiently, making it feel stiff and sore.
- Abscessed Tooth: An abscessed tooth occurs when dental pulp, or nerve, that has become infected. It typically occurs when a cavity has been left untreated for a prolonged period. When the bacteria from the infection starts to spread past the root of the tooth, it can also affect the surrounding bone tissues, subsequently causing significant jaw pain.
- Osteomyelitis: Osteomyelitis refers to a condition where an infection travels through the body’s bloodstream and affects someone’s bones and surrounding tissues. When you have osteomyelitis of the jaw, the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is obstructed, which causes jaw pain, fever, and facial swelling. Luckily, this condition is normally curable with antibiotics or a surgical procedure, which removes the dead areas of the bone.
- Other Dental Conditions: Jaw pain can also be caused by gum disease and cavities. Many of these issues don’t directly affect the jaw, but the pain tends to radiate into the jaw area. In addition, people with gaps between their teeth, or teeth that have been severely damaged, may also experience jaw pain when there is stress put on their jaw, such as biting or chewing.
Another, often terrifying, reason that you’re having jaw pain is that you’re having a heart attack. Pain that starts near a group of nerves, like the heart, is often felt someplace else on the body. This is known as “referred pain.” For some people, jaw pain may be the only symptom of a heart attack. Of course, the best thing for you to do is to understand and knowledge about general oral health issues and you should definitely not diagnosis yourself. You should always seek the advice of your dentist or another trained healthcare provider with any questions in regards to a medical condition or treatment.
At Foothill Dental Care in Livermore, we understand the anxiety people have when it comes to oral health care. The best way to avoid any dental issues is by having regular dental exams and getting any dental cavities or other conditions treated promptly. If jaw pain has been bothering you, we are happy to help you identify the cause and correct the problem. Give our office a call at (925) 961-5484.