Jaw Pain: Common Causes and Best Treatments

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  • Jaw pain can have many causes, ranging from minor issues such as TMD to more serious conditions like oral cancer.
  • TMD is an umbrella term for conditions that affect the temporomandibular joint and cause facial pain, headaches, earaches, and tinnitus.
  • Tooth decay/infection can cause jaw pain due to swelling and inflammation in the area.
  • Oral cancer may also cause jaw pain and requires specialized treatments.
  • Anyone experiencing ongoing jaw discomfort should seek medical advice from their primary care provider.

Jaw pain can be uncomfortable and sometimes even debilitating. Many people experience jaw pain that comes and goes, while others have chronic pain. There are many potential causes of jaw pain, which is why it’s important to understand what could be causing your discomfort. In this blog post, we’ll cover the common causes of jaw pain as well as the best treatments for each one.

TMJ Disorders (TMD)

TMJ disorder, or TMD, is an umbrella term for conditions that affect the temporomandibular joint, which connects your jawbone to your skull. This joint helps you with movement when speaking, chewing, yawning, and other daily activities. When this joint becomes damaged or misaligned due to injury or stress, it can lead to pain and discomfort in the face and neck areas.

TMJ Symptoms

The symptoms can vary from person to person but typically include pain in the jaw joints when eating or talking and clicking sounds when opening and closing the mouth.

Other common symptoms of TMJ disorder include chronic headaches, earaches, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), difficulty sleeping on one side of the head due to pain, muscle fatigue in the face and neck area due to overuse of facial muscles for chewing, dizziness or vertigo-like symptoms caused by an imbalance between inner-ear fluids.

Tooth Decay/Infection

a close up image of mouths interior with tooth decay

Another possible cause of jaw pain is tooth decay or infection. If left untreated, tooth decay can lead to an infection in the gums which can cause jaw pain due to swelling and inflammation in the area. If this is causing your discomfort, then you will likely need a filling or root canal treatment, depending on how severe the decay/infection is.

When the infection is too much to handle, your dentist may suggest an extraction to prevent it from spreading to nearby teeth or the jawbone. After this, you will be offered tooth replacement solutions to replace the missing tooth and restore your ability to eat and speak properly. Here are two of the most common tooth restoration treatments:

Dental implants

Dental implants offer a lasting solution for tooth loss, utilizing titanium roots surgically implanted directly into the jawbone. They fuse with your natural bone over time and serve as a permanent base for replacement teeth, such as crowns or bridges.


These are removable false teeth that look and function like natural teeth. They come in two types: complete dentures for patients who are missing all of their teeth and partial dentures for those who have some natural teeth remaining.

Your dentist will be able to recommend the best treatment option for you, depending on your individual needs and preferences.

Oral Cancer

dentist checking mouth ogf a patient

Oral cancer is another possible cause of jaw pain, although it’s much less common than tooth decay/infection and TMD. Symptoms include:

  • persistent sore throat/jaw pain that does not go away after a few days
  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck area
  • bleeding gums or painful lesions on tongue/inside cheek areas
  • difficulty swallowing or speaking; numbness in lips/tongue areas
  • changes in voice quality
  • white patches inside mouth area
  • earaches with no apparent cause
  • unexplained weight loss over time

Treatment Options for Oral Cancer

Treatment options for oral cancer depend on the stage at which it was diagnosed and how far it has spread throughout the body. Treatment may involve surgery to remove tumors from the mouth and jawbone areas; radiotherapy to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells; chemotherapy to destroy tumor cells with medication; targeted therapy using drugs specifically designed to block tumor growth; hormonal therapy if hormones are involved in tumor growth; immunotherapy if boosting immunity helps fight tumor growth; and laser therapy if laser beams are used to target tumors in hard-to-reach areas in the mouth.

The Bottom Line

Jaw pain can have many causes ranging from minor issues like TMJ disorders to more serious conditions like oral cancer. That’s why it’s important that anyone experiencing ongoing jaw discomfort should seek medical advice from their primary care provider, who will then refer them to an appropriate specialist depending on what they suspect might be causing their particular issue(s). With proper diagnosis and treatment, most cases of jaw pain can be successfully managed, so don’t hesitate—seek professional help today!

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