Reasons for Jaw Pain

Updated April 13, 2017

Jaw pain involves pain and tenderness in the jaw and can often involve other symptoms, such as stiffness, migraines or tenderness around the ear. Jaw pain sufferers often have clicking noises when they try to open their mouth wide. There are two primary joints in the jaw with several muscles that help in opening and closing your mouth, chewing, speaking and swallowing. Jaw pain can make these regular activities difficult and painful. Although there are common reasons for jaw pain, it is not always easily diagnosed and the pain might have several sources.


TMJ, or temporomandibular disorder, is a disorder when the mechanisms of your jaw do not function properly. With TMJ, you will feel pain and/or loss of jaw function. TMJ is caused by a number of factors such as trauma from a car accident, bruxism, malocclusion, emotional stress and working at a computer all day. Signs and symptoms of TMJ include stiffness and pain in the jaw, migraines usually starting around the temples, toothaches that are not localised, tenderness in the jaw, difficulty opening your mouth or a grinding sound in the jaw joint, ear pain and tension in the neck. A doctor or dentist will probably be able to determine if you have TMJ by examining your teeth to see if there are signs of teeth grinding. Treatment plans for TMJ can vary greatly depending on the symptoms and their severity. Splints or mouth guards are used to protect teeth from further wear and to prevent grinding. Other treatment options include jaw rest, moist heat, exercises, physiotherapy, medication and stress management.

Dental Problems

Dental problems can put pressure on the nerve roots and cause irritation. Pain in the jaw can be a result from decaying teeth, infection or abscess, injury to the tooth or loss of a tooth. Jaw pain with dental problems might cause sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures, sensitivity when chewing, and may involve bleeding and swelling. Dental problems can normally be resolved through dental work, antibiotics and even extraction of the problematic tooth.

White Phosphorus Chemical Poisoning

White phosphorus is used in many household products including fertilisers, insecticides, rodentcides, and water treatment. White phosphorus chemical poisoning happens when white phosphorus is ingested. After chronic exposure, jaw pain, tooth pain and osteoporosis can occur. Treatment methods include decontamination, symptomatic relief through medication administered intravenously, orally or topically, and supportive measures.

Jaw Tumor

Both benign and malignant tumours of various types normally originate in the jaw. Symptoms of a jaw tumour include tooth mobility, redness and swelling of the gums, pain and tenderness, swelling of the face, alveolar ridge and palate. Treatment for these tumours is dependent upon location and type. The usual method is surgery. After the surgery, patients may still feel jaw pain, but will recover as healing continues.

Sinus Infection

Sinusitis is one type of nose infection. Nose infections may happen for a variety of reasons including surgery, nose piercing and injury. Symptoms of sinusitis are nasal congestion, postnasal drip, pain or pressure down one side of your nose, headache around the eyes and temple, and fever. Treatment to the extremes includes surgery. Other treatment options include antibiotics, cold medications, and promoting drainage through drinking plenty of fluids, and breathing in steam to help ease symptoms and stop the infection.

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About the Author

Andrea Helaine has a Bachelor of Philosophy in theology and is currently finishing her thesis course for a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. Helaine has been writing professionally for over 10 years and has been published in several anthologies and is currently breaking into the screenwriting market.