Temporomandibular Disorder, or TMD, is often believed to be the culprit when people experience jaw pain. Despite causing jaw problems, jaw pain is not always caused by the disorder. Jaw pain can indicate serious health issues and if severe or lasts longer than 24 hours, should be evaluated by a professional as soon as possible.
Regardless of its severity, jaw pain should not be ignored and treatment sought before a more significant issue arises. Some of the common causes of jaw pain and their related treatments will be discussed in this article.
Clenching or Grinding the Teeth
Grinding or clenching the teeth, known as bruxism, places excessive force on the jaw. Commonly occurring subconsciously when sleeping, bruxism can damage the teeth, jaw, and surrounding muscles while leading to discomfort. Behavioral modifications, de-stressing techniques, and wearing a mouth guard while sleeping are all ways to mitigate grinding and any related jaw pain.
How the teeth interact together can also cause jaw pain if not properly aligned. Known as a bite pattern, misalignment can lead to uneven tooth wear and jaw discomfort. Typically, braces or similar hardware can correct a misaligned bite pattern allowing the jaw to close more comfortably.
“Overusing” their jaw is a common joke people make but in reality, overuse can be a serious medical problem. For example, chewing gum for prolonged periods can cause jaw damage resulting in constant discomfort. This could be attributed to the amount of time the jaw works or from the chewing motion but allowing the jaw to rest often solves the issue.
Jaw pain is common with sinus infections because of the pressure buildup in the sinus cavity. Swelling in the sinuses, pressure from being blocked, and the infection spreading to other areas can all contribute to jaw pain. If not treated, a sinus infection could lead to an ear infection. Due to the location of the ears, any ear infections or swelling can quickly lead to jaw pain. When infected, the inner ear tubes behind the jaw can become very sore and radiate throughout the jaw area.
Jaw pain could also be attributed to an abscessed tooth or gum infection. With either condition, the infection and discomfort can quickly affect the jaw. This is especially so with abscessed teeth regardless of their location in the jaw. Anyone experiencing jaw pain related to an infection should immediately seek medical care as untreated infections can cause more serious health issues.
Other Causes of Jaw Pain
- Joint Diseases: Just like the knees or elbows, the jaw is a joint and as such, is susceptible to diseases like osteoarthritis.
- Heart Conditions: In some cases, a constant dull pain in the lower left side of the jaw could be indicative of a heart condition similar to pain in the left arm or chest with a heart attack. This is especially true with women and could be accompanied by other symptoms like shortness of breath.
- Stress: The facial muscles are often strained when people are stressed which could be causing jaw pain.