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

Jaw pain could be a sign of a dental problem such as a toothache, TMJ disorder, or a more serious condition. Our Windsor dentists discuss possible causes of jaw pain and how to treat sore joints in this post.

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

TMJ Disorder is one of the most common causes of jaw pain. The temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to your skull's temporal bones (located just below your temple, in front of your ear). This hinge is critical to your daily life, allowing you to speak, breathe, and eat.

TMJ Disorders occur when your facial and jaw muscles become tense. If the disorder progresses to a severe state following the onset of pain in this area, you may eventually lose the ability to move the joint.

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 of TMJ Disorder may include:

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


Though we take many routine vaccines 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 may experience:

  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Bruises
  • Pain
  • Swelling

Depending on the severity of the injury, you may require dental care if the pain persists, you are missing teeth, or you are unable to chew or open and close your mouth. In addition to dental treatment, over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen may be helpful.

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
  • Gum disease (which can cause your jaw bone to become damaged)
  • Wisdom teeth erupting
  • Misaligned teeth

These issues should be addressed immediately, and fractured teeth are normally dental emergencies, necessitating an immediate visit to your dentist. Until then, keep the tooth that is bothering you clean and experiment with rinsing with warm water.

Cysts or Tumors

Odontogenic cysts or tumours 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.


This is a type of infection that occurs in the bone and can affect your mandible (lower jaw). If left untreated, anaerobic osteomyelitis can cut off the blood supply to your jaw and cause bone tissue damage.

How can I get rid of jaw pain?

Some ways you can help to alleviate jaw pain include:

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 persists after at-home remedies, make an appointment with your dentist.

Our dentists at Madison Dental will discuss your symptoms with you, perform a comprehensive oral examination, explain possible treatment options, and develop a custom treatment plan for you that may include a mouthguard or other measures, depending on your specific needs.

In rare instances, oral surgery may be recommended to relieve severe pain caused by structural problems in the jaw that have not responded to other remedies or treatments.

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

(519) 977-6453