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

If you are experiencing pain in your jaw it could be a sign of a TMJ Disorder, toothache, or a more severe issue. Today, our dentists in Winnipeg share some of the possible causes of jaw pain and how you can alleviate some of the pain.

What can cause jaw pain?

Jaw pain could be a sign of dental problems such as a toothache, TMJ Disorder, or maybe even a more problematic condition.

TMJ Disorders

TMJ Disorder is one of the most common causes of jaw pain. The temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull (situated just under your temple, in front of your ear). This hinge has an important role in your daily life, letting you eat, breathe, and talk. 

TMJ Disorders develop when there is a problem with your jaw and facial muscles. If this condition worsens to a severe state after you start experiencing pain in this area, you maight eventually not be able to move the joint.

Some possible causes of TMJ Disorders are:

  • Misalignment of the jaw
  • Inflammation in the muscles surrounding your jaw
  • Injury to the jaw
  • Certain conditions or illnesses such as arthritis 

Some of the most common symptoms of TMJ Disorders are:

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

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.


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.


Similar to the other bones in the human body, your jaw can get dislocated or fractured. After experiencing a blow to the jaw, you might have:

  • Swelling
  • Bruises
  • Pain
  • Loose or missing teeth

Depending on your injury, you might have to see your dentist if the pain you are feeling doesn’t go away, you are missing teeth or you can't chew or open and close your mouth. Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen might be able to help, in combination with dental treatments if needed.

Dental Issues

A handful of dental problems could cause a sore jaw, such as:

  • Wisdom teeth erupting
  • Fractured or crowded teeth
  • Teeth grinding
  • Toothache (typically with an abscess or cavity as the underlying cause)
  • Gum disease (which can cause your jaw bone to become damaged)
  • Misaligned teeth

You should have these problems addressed as quickly as possible, and fractured teeth are considered dental emergencies, so you should call your dentist immediately. Until then, keep your sore tooth clean and try rinsing with warm water.

Tumors or Cysts

Not typically cancerous, odontogenic cysts or tumors 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 develops in the bone, this condition can impact your mandible (lower jaw). Referred to as anaerobic osteomyelitis, it can cut off blood supply to your jaw and damage bone tissue if it goes untreated.

How can I manage my 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 you still have jaw pain after implementing at-home remedies, schedule an appointment with your dentist.

At Odyssey Dental Care, our dentists will discuss your symptoms with you, complete a comprehensive oral examination, explain possible treatment options, and develop a custom treatment plan that could 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 suffering from jaw pain contact our Winnipeg dentists as soon as you can to schedule an appointment.

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