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Jaw Pain: Understanding When to Seek Professional Dental Care

Research indicates that at least one-third of the population suffers from jaw pain. This common condition can stem from several causes ranging from temporary strain to serious medical conditions. Since the temporomandibular joint, the joint that connects the jawbone to the skull, is essential for speaking, chewing, and facial movements, addressing jaw pain is crucial. Understanding the possible causes and when to seek professional help is the key to managing not only the pain but other resulting symptoms.


One of the most common causes of jaw pain is temporomandibular joint disorder. TMD includes a range of conditions that affect the temporomandibular joint and surrounding muscles. It can stem from grinding the teeth, misalignment of the jaw, and facial injuries. Excessive gum chewing, habitual jaw clenching, and arthritis can also cause TMD. People with this condition may experience pain and tenderness, difficulty chewing, clicking or popping of the jaw joint, and even locking of the jaw in some cases. It’s important to see a dentist for jaw pain to help deal with this condition.

Dental Issues

Dental problems can also contribute to jaw pain. Toothaches caused by cavities, abscesses, and other issues can certainly radiate to the jaw. Impacted teeth are common causes of jaw aches as well. All of these problems require professional dental care. Resolving the dental issue will eliminate the jaw pain by extension.


Malocclusions, or misaligned teeth, can also place excessive strain on the jaw muscles and ligaments. Some common types of malocclusions are overbites, underbites, crossbites, and overjets. Several factors can lead to malocclusions, including thumb sucking, using a pacifier for too long, mouth injuries, and cleft lip and palate. Malocclusions can also vary in severity. Seeing a dentist is crucial for correcting these problems. 

Joint Strain

As mentioned, in some cases, jaw pain is the result of joint strain. It can be caused by chewing gum, grinding the teeth, and clenching the jaw. Even poor posture can bring about TMJ pain. In situations like these, professional care may not be needed to eliminate the pain. Instead, getting rid of the pain could be as simple as stopping the habit that’s causing it.

Additional Considerations

In more severe cases, jaw pain can be a symptom of a serious underlying medical condition, such as an ear or sinus infection. Some people have even reported jaw pain accompanying angina or a heart attack. It could also be a side effect of a severe headache. Injuries to the head, face, and neck may bring about jaw pain too.

Think about any underlying causes that may be responsible, as well as the duration and intensity of the jaw pain. Other symptoms should also be considered. If the pain lasts for more than a few days, grows worse over time, or happens along with other serious symptoms, it’s best to seek medical intervention. Seeing a dentist is also advised if the pain is interfering with activities like chewing or speaking. Any pain that’s accompanied by swelling, bleeding, or difficulty opening the mouth shouldn’t be ignored, either. 

Treating Jaw Pain

Several treatments are available for jaw pain, but not all of them are appropriate in all cases. If it’s caused by jaw clenching or tooth grinding, stress reduction techniques or using a mouthguard at night may be all it takes to provide relief. When toothaches are the cause, fillings, extractions, and other dental procedures could offer resolution. In cases where jaw pain is the result of serious medical issues, more in-depth intervention may be required.

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