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

Jaw pain can be a sign of a dental problem such as a toothache or TMJ Disorder, or it may even be an indication of a more serious oral health issue. Our Richmond Hill dentists discuss possible causes of jaw pain and how to soothe those sore joints.

Causes of Jaw Pain

Jaw pain can indicate a dental issue such as a toothache, TMJ Disorder, or perhaps a more serious condition.

TMJ Disorders

TMJ Disorder is one of the most common causes of jaw pain. Your temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull (located just below your temple, in front of your ear). This hard-working hinge plays a significant role in your everyday life, allowing you to talk, breathe and eat properly.

TMJ Disorders occur when there is an issue with your facial and jaw muscles. If the disorder advances to a severe state after you start to experience pain in this area, you may eventually be unable to move the joint.

Common causes of TMJ Disorders can include:

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

Symptoms related to TMJ Disorders may include:

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

If you think that a TMJ disorder is causing your jaw pain, see your dentist so they can recommend treatment or exercises. Sometimes, prescription drugs or surgery may be required to address the issue.


In childhood, we receive a number of vaccines to help prevent various illnesses, nonetheless, it is still possible to develop conditions 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 may experience:

  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Bruising
  • Pain
  • Swelling

Depending on the injury, you may need to see your dentist if the pain persists, you are missing teeth or you’re unable to chew or open and close your mouth. Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen may help to relieve pain, in addition to dental treatment if necessary.

Dental Issues

A variety of dental issues can result in jaw pain, such as:

  • Fractured or crowded teeth
  • Toothache resulting from an abscess or cavity
  • Teeth grinding
  • Gum disease which can cause damage to the jaw bone
  • Wisdom teeth coming in
  • Misaligned teeth

These problems should be addressed as soon as possible, and fractured teeth are dental emergencies, so you should see your dentist right away. Until then, keep the tooth that hurts clean and try rinsing with warm water.

Cysts or Tumors

Odontogenic cysts or tumours are typically not cancerous, but can impact your teeth and lead to jaw pain. Surgery may 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 the blood supply to your jaw and damage bone tissue if left untreated.

Getting Rid of Jaw Pain

Below are some tips to help you alleviate any jaw pain you are experiencing.

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 after trying the tips above your jaw pain persists, make an appointment with your dentist.

At Expressions Dental Care, our dentists will discuss your symptoms with you, complete a comprehensive oral examination, recommend appropriate treatment options, and develop a custom treatment plan that may include a mouthguard or other measures depending on your needs. 

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

If you are experiencing jaw pain contact our Richmond Hill dentists to book an appointment today.

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