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

Experiencing jaw pain could be a sign of a dental problem like a toothache, TMJ disorder, or even a more severe condition. Our dentists in Cornwall are here to provide insight into the potential causes of jaw pain and offer guidance on how to alleviate discomfort in your jaw joints.

What causes jaw pain?

Jaw pain may signal dental problems like a toothache, TMJ Disorder, or even a more severe condition.

TMJ Disorders

Jaw pain often stems from TMJ Disorder, which affects the joint connecting your jaw to the skull bones near your temple and in front of your ear. This joint is crucial for everyday activities like talking, breathing, and eating.

TMJ Disorders arise when there are problems with your facial and jaw muscles. Severe cases of the disorder can lead to joint immobility after experiencing pain in the affected area.

Causes of TMJ Disorders 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
  • Frequent headaches
  • Jaw locking or popping
  • Dizziness
  • Vision problems
  • Ringing in ears

If you suspect a TMJ problem, it's advisable to consult your dentist for treatment recommendations or exercises. In some cases, prescription drugs or surgery may be necessary to address the issue.


As children, we receive numerous vaccines to protect us from diseases, which have thankfully been eradicated. However, there are still illnesses that can result in jaw pain and other symptoms. One such bacterial infection is Tetanus, which can lead to the stiffening or tightening of one's jaw muscles. This severe condition often requires hospitalization for weeks.


Your jaw, like any other bone, can break or come out of place if it gets hit. If you take a blow to the jaw, you might have the following symptoms:

  • Teeth that are loose or missing
  • Bruises
  • Pain
  • Swelling

If the pain doesn't go away, you're missing teeth, or you can't chew or open and close your mouth properly, it's important to see your dentist. You can also try using over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and, if needed, get dental treatment.

Dental Issues

Dental problems can cause a sore jaw. Some examples of these issues are:

  • Fractured or crowded teeth
  • Toothache (often due to an abscess or cavity)
  • Teeth grinding
  • Gum disease (which can cause your jaw bone to become damaged)
  • Eruption of wisdom teeth
  • Misaligned teeth

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

Odontogenic cysts or tumors, although usually not cancerous, can have a significant impact on your teeth. In some cases, surgery may be necessary for their removal.

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.


There is a bone infection known as anaerobic osteomyelitis that can affect the mandible, or lower jaw. If left untreated, this condition can lead to damage of bone tissue and blood supply blockage.

How can I get rid of jaw pain?

At-Home Care

  • To alleviate jaw pain, alternate between applying a warm, damp washcloth or a cloth-covered ice pack to your jaw for 10 minutes, then taking a 10-minute break.
  • Use over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen to help relieve the pain.
  • Gently rub the painful joint, massaging it with your fingers. Focus on pressing the sore areas of your jaw and gradually move towards the side of your neck.
  • It's best to avoid caffeine as it may potentially worsen muscle tension.

Dental Care

If you're experiencing ongoing jaw pain despite trying at-home remedies, it's recommended that you schedule an appointment with your dentist.

At Cornwall Dental Care, our caring and experienced dentists will listen to your symptoms, conduct a thorough oral examination, and discuss potential treatment options with you.

We may recommend a custom mouthguard or other measures depending on your unique needs.

In rare cases where structural issues are causing severe pain and other remedies have been unsuccessful, oral surgery for TMJ Disorder may be recommended to correct the problem.

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

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We are accepting new patients, don't hesitate to contact us and take the first step in achieving better oral health outcomes.

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