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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 Toronto 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 among the most frequently occurring causes of jaw pain. The temporal bones of your skull, which are situated in front of your ear, just below your temple, are joined by the temporomandibular joint. You are able to talk, breathe, and eat thanks in large part to this hinge.

A problem with your facial and jaw muscles can lead to TMJ disorders. You may eventually lose your ability to move the joint if the disorder worsens to a severe stage after you first start to feel pain here.

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 receive many routine vaccines as children that have thankfully eliminated diseases, it is still possible to contract diseases 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 does not go away, you are missing teeth, or you are unable to chew or open and close your mouth, you should see your dentist. In addition to dental treatment, over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen may be helpful.

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

These issues should be addressed as soon as possible, and fractured teeth are dental emergencies that require immediate attention from your dentist. Until then, keep the hurting tooth clean and rinse with warm water.

Cysts or Tumors

Odontogenic cysts or tumours, which are typically non-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 to radiate to the jaw and to the area around or behind one eye.


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

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 Thorncliffe Dental Centre will discuss your symptoms with you, perform a thorough oral examination, explain possible treatment options, and create a custom 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 Toronto dentists to book an appointment today.

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