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

Jaw pain can indicate a dental issue such as a toothache, TMJ Disorder, or perhaps a more serious condition. In this post, our Winnipeg dentists explain the possible causes of jaw pain and what to do with those sore joints.

What causes jaw pain?

Jaw pain may be a sign of a more serious condition or a dental problem like a toothache or TMJ disorder.

TMJ Disorders

TMJ Disorder is one of the most typical causes of jaw pain. The temporal bones of your skull, which are situated just below your temple and in front of your ear, are connected to your jaw by the temporomandibular joint. Your ability to speak, breathe, and eat is greatly influenced by this hinge.

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.

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

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.


Despite the fact that we are fortunate to receive numerous routine vaccinations as children, which have eradicated many diseases, it is still possible to contract illnesses that 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

If the pain doesn't go away, you have missing teeth, you can't chew, or you can't open and close your mouth, you may need to visit your dentist depending on the nature of the injury. Ibuprofen and other over-the-counter pain relievers could be helpful, as well as any required dental care.

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

Fractured teeth are a dental emergency, so you should see your dentist as soon as possible to address these issues. Keep the sore tooth clean and try rinsing with warm water until then.

Cysts or Tumors

Odontogenic cysts or tumors, which are typically not cancerous, can quickly start to affect your teeth. To get rid of them, surgery might be necessary.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches, one of the most painful types of headaches, can cause pain in the area around or behind one eye, with the pain sometimes radiating to the jaw.


This condition, a kind of infection that develops in the bone, may affect your mandible (lower jaw). Anaerobic osteomyelitis is a condition that, if left untreated, can sever the blood supply to your jaw and harm bone tissue.

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.
  • 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 Munroe Dental will talk with you about your symptoms, perform a thorough oral examination, go over possible treatments, and then create a personalized 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 experiencing jaw pain contact our Winnipeg dentists to book an appointment today.

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