Jaw Pain – Causes and Symptoms
Soreness in the muscles attaching the U-shaped bone of the lower face to the skull. Your jaw is one joint you probably take for granted but use millions of times each day. Moving your jaw is like walking or breathing — you don't think about it until it hurts. Like most of your other joints, the muscles connecting it will suffer the usual number of spasms and pains. But sometimes jaw pain is a signal of something more serious — injury, infection, a nerve disorder, or pain referred from somewhere else in your body.
It's time to see your doctor if you have jaw pain and:
- Pain when biting or chewing
- Stiffness in your jaw
- Loosened or damaged teeth
- Numbness in your lower lip
- Recent blow to the face
You will probably know if you have fractured your jaw. Because of the jaw's shape, a knock to your face or head can crack the bone on one side and cause injury to the other side as well. Get medical attention. You may need to have an X-ray.
- Pain in front of your ear on one or both sides
- Your jaw extends further forward than normal
- Your mouth does not close properly
- Difficulty speaking
These symptoms could mean you have dislocated your jaw. Usually this happens after a blow to the face, but it could result from something as simple as yawning. It is fairly easy to put the joint back into place, but you should still see your doctor since it is quite common for the dislocation to reoccur.
- Swollen and painful gums
- Swollen lymph nodes in your neck
- Difficulty opening your mouth
Usually, wisdom teeth, the four back molars, develop and erupt between the ages of 17 and 21, but sometimes they never fully emerge until later in life. If, as an older adult, you experience these symptoms, you may have a late-developing or impacted wisdom tooth. See your dentist.
- Stuffy nose with a green-yellow discharge Tension, fullness, or pressure in your face and head
- Throbbing headache made worse by bending over Pain behind your eyes
- Pain behind your cheeks that feels like a toothache
- Loss of the sense of smell
- Fever and chills
- Cough or sore throat
Your sinuses are air-filled pockets and passageways in the bones around your nose that connect your nose, eyes, and ears. When your sinuses become irritated and inflamed by allergies, pollution, smoke, or a viral infection, you can develop sinusitis.
- Ache or throbbing pain in a tooth
- Pain when chewing or biting
- Swollen, red, and sore gum around tooth
- Swollen and tender glands in your neck and side of face
- Earache Fever Headache
- Bad-tasting discharge in your mouth
Bacteria sometime reach the nerves and blood vessels inside a tooth, or the area between the teeth and gums, causing an infection. If this infection spreads into the tissue and bone surrounding the tooth, it is called an abscess. See your dentist as soon as possible.
- Pressure-like pain in the center of your chest that can vary from mild to severe
- Pain in your throat, neck, gums, upper body, or left arm
- Discomfort In your chest and throat similar to indigestion
- Difficulty breathing
These symptoms could mean you are suffering from angina pectoris. An angina attack occurs when the heart does not receive enough oxygen. This usually happens when the blood to the heart is insufficient due to coronary heart disease. This is not a heart attack. The pain is not as intense or lengthy as during a heart attack, and no heart muscle is damaged. You should consider the pain a warning sign and see your doctor immediately — you are at risk of a heart attack.
- Muscles in your face and jaw that feel stiff or sore, especially in the morning
- Loose and sore teeth
- Muscle pain in your neck and shoulders
- Teeth that are extra sensitive to heat and cold
- A habit of clenching your teeth when under stress
- Inability to open your jaw completely
Bruxism is the medical term for tooth grinding. If you have the above symptoms, you may be spending your nights clenching, gritting, or grinding your teeth. Usually caused by stress, bruxism is an unconscious habit that can damage your teeth, gums, and jaw muscles. Your dentist can fit you with a biteplate that you wear at night. This won't keep you from grinding your teeth, but it will prevent most of the tooth damage that bruxism can cause. There are other steps you can take to rid yourself of this destructive habit. Ask your dentist for advice.
- Headache or an ache in the muscles in front of your ears
- Jaw joint sometimes gets stuck
- Clicking, cracking, or crunching noises when moving your jaw
- Pain when yawning
- Difficulty opening your mouth completely or moving your jaw from side to side
- Sore and swollen muscles around your jaw
- Hearing loss or a ringing, roaring, or buzzing sound in your ears
If you suffer from a mix of these symptoms, chances are you have been diagnosed with anything from a toothache to a migraine to a sinus infection. Many people come to believe they are suffering from a psychological problem since abnormalities don't always show up on lab tests or X-rays. But, like 20 million other Americans, you may have a very real condition called temporomandibular joint syndrome or TMJ.