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

Pain in your jaw can be caused by dental conditions such as toothache, TMJ Disorder, or even a more problematic issue. In this blog, our dentists in Winnipeg share some common causes of jawn pain and provide you with tips on how you might be able to alleviate the pain. 

What can cause jaw pain?

Jaw pain can be a sign of a dental issue such as a toothache, TMJ Disorder, or maybe a more serious condition.

TMJ Disorders

One of the most common causes of jaw pain is TMJ Disorder. The temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull (located just below your temple, in front of your ear). This hinge plays a large role in your everyday life, allowing you to talk, breathe and eat.

TMJ Disorders occur when there is an issue with your facial and jaw muscles. If the disorder advances to a severe state after you start to experience pain in this area, you may eventually be unable to move the joint.

TMJ Disorders can be caused by:

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

You could experience these symptoms with TMJ Disorder:

  • 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.


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 is a serious problem that could lead to spending weeks in the hospital.


Your jaw can get dislocated or fractured just like the other bones in your body. After being hit in the jaw you could experience:

  • Bruises
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Swelling
  • Pain

Based on the injury you have received, you might have to visit your dentist if the pain doesn't alleviate, you cant chew or open and close your mouth, or if you are missing teeth. Taking over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen might be able to help in combination with dental treatment if it is needed.

Dental Issues

There is a handful of dental problems that can cause a sore jaw such as:

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

You should have any of these conditions addressed as quickly as possible. If you have fractured teeth you should see your dentist immediately as it is considered a dental emergency. Until you can see the dentist keep your sore tooth or teeth clean and try rinsing your mouth 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.


A type of infection that occurs 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 left untreated.

How can I get rid of jaw pain?

At-Home Care

  • Avoid caffeine (which can potentially contribute to muscle tension)
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
  • Apply a warm, wet washcloth or ice pack covered in cloth to your jaw (10 minutes on, 10 minutes off)
  • 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.

Dental Care

If your jaw pain persists after at-home remedies, make an appointment with your dentist.

At Academy Dental Group, our dentists will discuss your symptoms with you, complete a comprehensive oral examination, explain possible treatment options, and develop 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 feeling pain in your jaw contact our dentists in Winnipeg as soon as possible to schedule an appointment.

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