When jaw pain disrupts your daily routine, it can be difficult to concentrate on anything other than the dull constant ache or sharp stabbing sensation in your mouth. The reasons behind jaw pain can vary from mild to severe health issues. From dental hygiene to a possible sign of a heart attack, here are all of the most common culprits behind that jaw discomfort.
If you notice a strong, pulsating pain in your jaw, then it could be a sign of a heart attack. Especially if this pain is accompanied by other heart attack symptoms, including shortness of breath, dizziness, cold sweats, and indigestion, seek medical help immediately.
“Sometimes the manifestation of a heart attack or some cardiac event can be felt in the jaws, the teeth and the neck. It’s not just the left side; it can happen on the right side, too, especially for females,” explained Dr. Steven Bender, clinical assistant professor and director of the Center for Facial Pain and Sleep Medicine at Texas A&M College of Dentistry. “The pain is a sign. It’s an indicator that something is happening right then, right in that moment. It may come and go depending on the severity, just like people who say ‘I thought it was heartburn,’ and it comes and goes. It’s the same thing with the jaw pain. It may come and go, and people may not attribute it to a cardiac event.”
About 5-12% of people worldwide suffer from a TMJ disorder, or a temporomandibular joint disorder, which causes pain and limited movement in the jaw. Common symptoms of TMJ include difficulty chewing or talking, and a “clicking” or locking of the jaw. Moreover, women are twice as likely to develop TMJ, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR).
There are a number of reasons as to what causes TMJ, including recent injury, overuse, arthritis, teeth grinding, or misalignment of your jaw. Although it is important to consult a doctor for proper treatment, there are several home remedies that can help soothe the pain. Applying a cold or hot compress as well as eating soft foods and taking anti-inflammatory medications are all good ways to manage the discomfort.
Too. Much. Stress.
It should come as no surprise that grinding or clenching your teeth can cause major muscle soreness in the jaw overtime. If left unaddressed, teeth grinding and jaw clenching can lead to dental damage overtime, in the most severe instances.
The trickiest part about jaw clenching is that in many instances, it occurs during people’s sleep. However, because it is such a common issue, there are many simple ways to address jaw clenching and teeth grinding. Wearing a mouth guard to sleep, as well as regularly practicing relaxation techniques that can help relax your jaw muscles are both good ways to deal with the jaw soreness.
In some cases, jaw pain can be an indicator that your sinuses are inflamed. When your sinuses swell up, they can cause pressure and pain in your cheekbone, upper jaw, or upper molars, and headaches when you move your head around, Dr. Moreno Hay said to Prevention Magazine.
Although the best cure for a sinus infection often takes time, there are some steps you can take to feel better quicker. Drinking plenty of fluids, breathing in steam, and taking OTC pain relievers are some ways to quell the inflammation that’s built up in your jaw. Usually, antibiotics aren’t necessary; but if you’ve had a fever for a few days, consult a medical professional.
“Arthritis can affect any joint of the body including the TMJ,” Dr. Hay said. So just like any other areas of the body that can be targets from chronic arthritic pain, the jaw is another area prone to deterioration and aches. Usually, a strange grating or crunching sound will be the strongest indicator that arthritis is behind your jaw pain.
“The reason why an arthritic joint may make a grating noise is because the joint surfaces wear down and during movement there’s an increase in friction between bones,” Dr. Hay explained.
Other common symptoms include muscle stiffness, swelling, and pain in front of your ear or earaches.
Although rare, a serious bone infection called osteomyelitis could be the reason for your jaw pain. If you have had recent dental surgery, or hurt your mouth, or have a condition that impacts your body’s immunity, then you could be at an increased risk for this highly uncommon condition. If left untreated, the infection could cut off your blood supply and cause permanent damage to your jaw bone. Warning signs of this serious condition include pain in your actual jaw bone, redness, swelling and warmth in the area, and a fever. If you notice any of these symptoms, be sure to contact medical help right away.