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

If you are experiencing jaw pain it could be an indication of a dental issue such as a toothache, TMJ Disorder, or other more serious conditions. Here, our Kenora dentists discuss common causes of jaw pain and ways to help soothe your discomfort.

What causes jaw pain?

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

TMJ Disorders

One of the most common causes of jaw pain is TMJ Disorder. The temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull (found just below your temple, in front of your ears). This hard-working hinge plays a major role in your day-to-day life, allowing you to talk, breathe and eat normally.

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

Causes of TMJ Disorders can include:

  • A number of health conditions and illnesses including arthritis
  • Inflammation in the muscles surrounding your jaw
  • Jaw misalignment
  • Injuries to the jaw

Symptoms commonly associated with TMJ Disorder may include:

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

If you suspect a problem with your TMJ, see your dentist so he or she can recommend treatment or exercises. Sometimes, prescription drugs or surgery may be required to address the issue.


Though we take routine vaccines in childhood that have reduced our risk of contracting a number of diseases, it’s still possible to get 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 illness 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
  • Bruises
  • Pain
  • Swelling

Depending on the injury, you may need to see your dentist if:

  • The pain doesn’t go away
  • You are missing teeth
  • You’re unable to chew or open and close your mouth
Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen may help, in addition to dental treatment if necessary.

Dental Issues

A variety of dental issues can lead to a sore jaw. These can include:

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

These problems should be addressed as soon as possible, and it's important to note that 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 to help relieve discomfort.

Cysts or Tumors

Odontogenic cysts or tumours can quickly begin to impact your teeth. Although typically not cancerous, 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 blood supply to your jaw and damage bone tissue if left untreated.

How can I 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.
  • Try to avoid caffeine which can potentially contribute to muscle tension around the jaw.

Dental Care

If your jaw pain persists after trying at-home remedies, make an appointment with your dentist.

At Lake of the Woods Dental, our dentists will discuss your symptoms with you, complete a comprehensive oral examination, explain possible 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 with severe pain that suffer from structural problems in their jaw and haven’t found relief with other remedies or treatments.

If you are suffering from jaw pain contact our Kenora dentists to book an examination. Our team can work with you to determine the best treatment options to address your discomfort .

(807) 468-8966