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

There are many reasons why your jaw could be hurting such as TMJ Disorder, a toothache, or a more severe problem. Here, our dentists in Edmonton discuss some common reasons for jaw pain and how you can help your painful joints. 

What causes jaw pain?

Jaw pain could indicate various dental problems such as TMJ disorder, tooth decay, or another more problematic issue. Today we talk about some common causes of jaw pain and the actions you should take if you experience pain in these joints.

TMJ Disorders

TMJ Disorder is probably one of the most common reasons why people experience jaw pain. The temporomandibular joints connect your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull (which are just below your temple, in front of your ear). This hinge plays an important part in your daily life because it lets you eat, breathe, and talk.

People develop TMJ Disorders when they have a problem with their jaw and facial muscles. If the disorder advances and becomes more severe after you first start experiencing pain in this area, it could reach a point where you won't be able to move your jaw joints. 

Causes of TMJ Disorders can include:

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

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder may include:

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

If you believe you have a problem with your TMJ, make an appointment with your dentist who will be able to suggest treatments or exercises. In some situations, prescription medications or surgery are required to correct the issue.


Even though there are many routine vaccinations we have to take from childhood that has thankfully 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 may experience:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Bruises
  • Loose or missing teeth

Depending on the injury, you may need to see your dentist if the pain doesn’t go away, 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, in addition to dental treatment if necessary.

Dental Issues

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

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

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

Not typically cancerous, odontogenic cysts or tumors can quickly begin to impact your teeth. 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

  • 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.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
  • Apply a warm, wet washcloth or ice pack covered in cloth to your jaw (10 minutes on, 10 minutes off)
  • Avoid caffeine (which can potentially contribute to muscle tension)

Dental Care

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

At Apple Dental Care, 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 pain in your jaw contact us at Apple Dental Care today to make an appointment.

Take great care of yourself & your smile. Book an appointment with Apple Dental Care in Edmonton!

Request Appointment (780) 455-5135