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What Are The Causes of My Jaw Pain?

African american man against white wall background with toothache

Adults suffering from jaw pain is a common problem and can lead to a significant number of other issues including pain when biting, tenderness in the jaw, and may even be the cause of severe headaches. Often patients may feel pain go through their teeth, sinuses, or even up to their ears. Working closely with a dental team can help to find the root of your jaw pain and can provide treatment options to alleviate your jaw pain.

How TMD Causes Jaw Pain

TMD or TMJ, (temporomandibular disorder) is a condition, or group of conditions, that affects the muscles, ligaments and tendons in the jaw. There are a number of different possible causes for developing TMD. According to the NIH, research has shown it can be connected to genes, pain perception, and stress. Bruxism, stress, jaw dislocation due to injury & arthritis are all possible causes of TMD that would cause irritation or swelling in the area and any subsequent jaw pain.

Identifying TMD

Identifying causes can be difficult due to the nature of TMD.  Your dentist will want to discuss your specific symptoms, pain sites, and will examine your jaw for some of the symptoms of TMD including clicking or popping of the jaw or jaw locking. 11-12 million adults in the U.S. experience pain in the temporomandibular joint and it is twice as common in woman as it is in men. The severity of your condition may help determine the method used for identifying the cause of your TMD such as using x-rays to get a closer look at your jaw structure and possibly an MRI to view the tissue around the joints being affected.

Depending on the cause, it is possible for TMJ symptoms to go away on their own or worsen over time exemplifying why it is important to find an exact diagnosis. Neglecting treatment can lead to chronic conditions. Crippling headaches, chipped/worn down teeth, and more severe dental issues can arise if TMD is left untreated.

How Tooth Grinding Causes Jaw Pain

also known as bruxism, causes patients to tightly clench their jaws and rub their teeth together. Similar to TMD, tooth grinding can potentially be caused by stress and can lead to cracked teeth, severe headaches, and TMJ disorder. Tooth grinding can occur mostly while you are asleep which may make it harder to detect. If you find yourself waking up frequently with headaches or jaw pain – you may be suffering from nighttime bruxism.

How to Tell if Tooth Grinding or Tooth Clenching is Causing Jaw Pain

A dentists opinion is the most sure way to determine if your jaw pain is being cause by tooth grinding. But there are some at home methods you can try to see if teeth clenching or grinding are causing your pain. If you are waking up in the morning experiencing pain in your teeth and jaw, it is possible that you are grinding or clenching in your sleep. You can buy an over-the-counter mouthguard to use temporarily at night and if it helps to alleviate the pain the next morning it may be a sign that overnight grinding is your problem. It would be beneficial to schedule an appointment with your dentist to get a properly fitted mouthguard that would not only provide more comfort but also achieve better results in helping to combat night bruxism.

If your issues arise throughout the day try to be aware of how often you are clenching your jaw and focus on relaxing it or letting it hang. If the issue is persistent, try some method of stress management from breathing exercises to meditation or reach out to a dentist to try to help establish the root of the issue.  If stress is causing the issue (which may result in tooth grinding and in turn can be the root of TMD) you may find that over time will correct itself with proper stress management.

At Home Jaw Pain Relief

There are some treatments that you can try at home to mitigate jaw pain. To find a more permanent method of treatment it is recommended you visit your dentist to get a proper diagnosis. Some at home relief methods include:

  • Eating soft foods
  • Taking over the counter medicine such as ibuprofen
  • Meditation and relaxation techniques to reduce stress
  • Relaxed jaw exercises
  • Ice applied for no more than 15 minutes
  • Trying OTC mouth guards at night to prevent teeth grinding and clenching

Jaw Exercises for Jaw Pain Relief

There are several exercises you can try to strengthen your jaws and help relieve pain. Many of these exercises are simple and can be done while performing light activity such as cooking, cleaning, or watching TV making it easy to fit into your daily routines.

Resist mouth closing

This exercise involves placing your thumbs under your chin and your index fingers in between your bottom lip and chin. Open your mouth slowly and close while applying downward pressure and resistance with your hands.

Resist mouth opening

You can also strengthen your jaw while opening. In this exercise, place your thumb underneath your chin an apply upward pressure when opening your mouth. Hold your mouth open for about 5 seconds before slowly closing.

Forward Jaw movement

Place an object that is about ¼ inch thick in between your front teeth and slowly push your bottom jaw outward so that your bottom teeth push past your top teeth.

Tongue Raises

Keeping your tongue touching the roof of your mouth, slowly open and close your mouth several times.

Contact Dental 365

If you are experiencing the symptoms of TMD/TMJ don’t hesitate to reach out to your dental team! Our convenient offices are open seven days a week and we accept walk-in appointments. Call us today at 844.365.DENTAL or request an appointment through our website at any time.


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