Jaw Pain

Pain in the jaw can develop in your jaw as well as other organs either near or away.

Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMD)

A disorder developing in the joints connecting the temporal bones and the mandible (jaw) on both sides is known as TMD (Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction). This disease develops because of the excessive use of the mastication muscles, and hence it is also known as myofascial pain dysfunction. The resulting pain occasionally develops in the TMJ (temporomandibular joint).


  • Sleep apnea, stress driven clenching and grinding of teeth, anxiety
  • Constant chewing of gum or consuming foods that are hard to chew such as tough meat or apples
  • Traumas like whiplash
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Congenital disorders and irregular bite
  • Ankylosis, disk displacement, rheumatoid arthritis, gout in the TMJ or osteoarthritis
  • Signs: If opening the mouth or chewing causes pain in the lower part in front of the ear on either one or both the sides. Whether sharp or dull, the pain could spread to the cheek, neck, ear, shoulder or temple; the pain could escalate during sleep, change in lifestyle or diet as well as cold; the painful area could also swell and become tender.
  • Stiffness in the jaw can result in the limited capacity while closing and opening the mouth.
  • Popping, grating or clicking sound can hear while the jaw moves.
  • Uncharacteristic mobility in the jaw area
  • Other signs are a migraine, headache, formation of knots in the mastication muscles, ringing noise in the ears (tinnitus), dizziness

Prevention and Cure:

  • Once the reason for the pain is taken care of, the pain eases out in 2 – 12 weeks time.
  • Ease the pain with heat using heat pads on the affected area for a minimum of 1 hour a day.
  • Avoid foods that require a lot of chewing and movement of the jaw.
  • Try anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen, prednisone, acetaminophen or other muscle relaxants to ease the pain.
  • For extreme cases, physiotherapy or massage treatments are helpful. Trigger point injections can come handy in some cases as well.
  • Bite guards are found to be quite useful in treating TMD.


Jaw Pain

Dental Cavities

Cavities are decaying of the tooth that can result in pain in the tooth, heightened tooth sensitivity while consuming hot, cold foods and sometimes pain in the affected jaw area.

Crowning or Filling a Tooth

Stiffness and pain in the jaw can felt after filling of the tooth as a result of keeping the mouth for a long time or may be because of the injection; however, the pain eases down within a couple of days. After crowning, you may also feel uneven bite that could cause constant pain in the ear or jaw.

Tooth Swelling

As a result of the prolonged tooth decay, one can suffer from a complication where pus gets accumulated near the root area of the affected tooth. This condition causes swelling on the tooth, also known as Tooth Abscess. The signs of tooth abscess are swelling on the gums, continuous pain, rare pus discharge and pain in the jaw. The pain gets infuriated while eating either cold or hot food. For the cure, either tooth removal or root canal recommended.

Impacted Wisdom Tooth and Removal

Signs of wisdom tooth impaction include pain, softness, swelling, redness of the gum near the wisdom tooth as well as pain in the jaw while opening the mouth. Surgical tooth removal is the primary treatment.

Pain in the jaw also felt after wisdom tooth removal, and the reasons are as follows:

  • The process; the pain lasts only for few days
  • Inflammation; Dry socket (acute alveolar osteitis) is an inflammation caused because of the protective blood clot loss and mainly stays until 3rd to 5th day. The resultant pain can felt from the ear till the jaw area of the affected tooth. Dry socket gets healed after a week naturally, however dressing it up could be helpful.
  • Infection; signs are swelling of the gum, fever, yellowish or white discharge.
  • Paining never injury, prickling or lack of sensitivity in the tongue, chin or gums that last for many weeks.

Once the procedure for wisdom tooth extraction is complete, it may take around 4-6 weeks for the pain in the jaw to ease down. To reduce the pain, light gargling with slightly hot water with salt recommended.

Treatment for Root Canal

Pain resulting from the treatment for root canal can ease down in one week. However, if it doesn’t, then consult the dentist and check for any infection or other complications.

Unsuccessful treatment for root canal can also result in frequent, extreme jaw pain even though there is no sign of any infection detected during X-ray.


Viral Tonsillitis

Viral Tonsillitis mostly seen in kids. Signs are fever, crankiness, ear or jaw pain on either one or both the sides, cough, difficulty in swallowing, swollen and red tonsils; the signs eventually pass within 3-4 days.

Strep Throat

A bacterial throat infection that is contracted by kids compared to the adults is known as strep throat. Symptoms are swollen, red tonsils, no cough but a sore throat, pain, swelling of the lymph nodes below the jaw, rare skin rash, and fever. Antibiotics are the recommended for strep throat.

Swimmer’s Ear

Because of the continuous water in the ear canals, swimmers often experience an inflammation or contract an infection in the external ear (otitis externa), which is popularly known as swimmer’s ear. Signs are the light pain, redness, and tingle in the ear canal; the pain gets extreme while one opens the mouth or pulls the ear. Ear cleaning or taking steroids or antibiotics are modern treatments for swimmer’s ear.

Agonizing, Swelling in the Lymph Nodes Below the Jaw

Possible reasons include:

  • Viral infections: flu, herpetic gingivostomatitis, tonsillitis, cold sore (herpes labialis), infectious mononucleosis
  • Bacterial infections: strep throat, tuberculosis, catscratch disease (Bartonella Hensel ae), dental abscess, infection of the middle ear (otitis media). (43)
  • Canker sores–petty yellowish or white ulcers forming in the mouth, which as per anecdotal reports, result in mouth and jaw pain. Reasons for such condition are allergies, an injury around the teeth lining, or stress
  • Thyroid disorders (thyroid cancer, thyroid nodules, subacute thyroiditis): swollen around the neck area and throbbing pain in the neck that spreads to the jaw and the ear, crankiness, fatigue, fever, trouble swallowing
  • Kawasaki disease in kids (43)
  • Cancers: tumors of the neck and head, lymphoma, leukemia

Arteries and Nerves


The pain and rash felt on the nerve resulting from an infection caused by Herpes virus are known as Shingles. A frequent, throbbing pain and severe tenderness resulting in itchy rash would cause once the trigeminal nerve is distressed. Post-herpetic neuralgia is the pain that is constant even after the rash is gone. Capsaicin, acyclovir by mouth, and other numbing creams are perfect for treating shingles.

Bell’s Palsy

Inflammation or firmness of the facial nerves often referred to as Bell’s palsy, which causes instant muscle weakness, jaw and ear pain, face drooping, tinnitus, lack of sensitivity, mouth drooling, all of which happens on any one side of the face. While the reasons are not totally clear, they could prevent viral infections such as influenza B, Herpes zoster (shingles), Herpes simplex (cold sores), mumps, or Epstein-Barr (infectious mononucleosis). Occasional causes are Lyme disease, Sjögren’s syndrome, and SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus).

Trigeminal Neuralgia

The constant, persistent pain felt in the fifth cranial (trigeminal) nerve is known as Trigeminal Neuralgia. The pain is often felt in the teeth gums, upper or lower jaw, and at times in the forehead or over the eyes. The high-intensity pain on either side of the face can felt for a few seconds to 2 minutes long.

The pain can intensify after a soft touch, chewing, while speaking, consuming cold or hot food, brushing the teeth, wind blow, moving head or shaving. During the attacks, you may also suffer from a persistent burning or throbbing sensation.

The main reason for Trigeminal Neuralgia compressed a trigeminal nerve in the brainstem caused by a vein or artery, whereas the condition can also cause by a tumor or a cyst in the brainstem or multiple sclerosis.

Anticonvulsant drugs like carbamazepine highly prescribed as a part of the treatment.

Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia

A constant and persistent pain were occurring in the ninth cranial distribution (glossopharyngeal) nerve is often referred to as Glossopharyngeal. The pain felt in the ear, throat, and base of the tongue and jaw. The pain often felt when the nerve is pressed by a tumor, a blood vessel or by multiple sclerosis, whereas the pain can aggravate while swallowing, talking, and yawning. Treatment includes taking Anticonvulsants.

Facial Migraine

A facial migraine often appears in the form of persistent high-intensity pain in the cheeks, teeth, gums and the nostrils instead of causing pain in the temples or the scalp that occurs in a migraine. Pain form facial migraine can stay for a few hours or can remain constant for few days. The pain is quite sensitive towards light and sound. Medications like sumatriptan can be helpful to counter a facial migraine.


A disorder almost similar to a migraine resulting from an unknown origin is often referred to as Carotidynia (Fay syndrome) and also sometimes known as a lower-half headache. The signs for Fay syndrome are softness above the carotid artery bifurcation on either side of the neck just under the jaw as well as constant and severe pain that spreads through the jaw, ear or face. Resultant attacks due to carotidynia can occur multiple times in a week, and the pain lasts for few minutes sometimes and can remain constant for several hours. The pain is triggered while swallowing, movement of head or chewing. For a proper diagnosis, MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan or Doppler ultrasound recommended.

Temporal Arteritis

Constant temporary artery swelling due to an unknown cause is called temporal arteritis. The signs of temporal arteritis are burning pain, severe tenderness, and complicated blood vessels around the temple area as well as rare pain in the jaw on either side. Temporal arteritis can cure by steroids.

Atypical Facial Pain (Persistent Idiopathic Facial Pain)

When there is the pain without any identified cause in the upper jaw on one side, it is often called Atypical Facial Pain. Earlier, this type of pain classified as the psychosomatic disorder linked with anxiety, hypochondria, and depression but now it linked with the nervous system having a neurological origin. The pain is either sharp or dull, squeezing or gnawing, burning; it badly located, it is same as trigeminal neuralgia but stays for long hours instead of seconds. The pain spreads or expands with time.

Impulsive factors might also include sinus surgery, dental work, swelling on the jaw ligament (Ernest Syndrome), facial trauma, temporal tendonitis, and a squeezed nerve in the cervical spine.

Atypical facial pain can cure with muscle relaxants, never blocks, or anticonvulsants and these are considered to be more helpful compared to the simple over-the-counter surgery or analgesics.

Jaw Bone

Maxillary Sinusitis

Maxillary sinusitis is a condition causing inflammation of the maxillary sinuses. It results in mild pain in the upper portion of the teeth or either side of the nose, nasal discharge, and blockage in the nose. The main reasons for this condition are typically allergies as well as bacterial or viral infections.

Jaw Fracture

An X-ray screening can diagnose fracture in the jaw. If you are suffering from jaw pain, misalignment of the teeth, deformity, swelling or bruise, tickling or softness in the jaw section, or crunching noise while moving the jaw, then these could be the signs of a jaw fracture. The best treatment is surgery whereas jaw fracture can also be treated using jaw rest (wiring) for many weeks.

Osteomyelitis of the Jaw

An infection contracted in the jaw by a complication of a tooth removal, fracture in the jaw or severe dental caries is known as osteomyelitis of the jaw. The signs can be the pain in the jaw, inflammation, trismus, tenderness, weakening of teeth, fistula (leaking of the pus on the surface of the skin), or fever. Osteomyelitis of the jaw can be treated by removing the infected tooth, surgery, or taking antibiotics.

Jaw Osteonecrosis

Partial damage and casualty of the jaw bone combined with swelling of the gums in both lower and upper jaw and pain are known as jaw osteonecrosis. The main reasons for this condition are an infection in the jaw, removal of a tooth, jaw trauma, or treatment with radiation, chemotherapy, steroids, or bisphosphonates (for osteoporosis). Well, surgery is not always required to treat jaw osteonecrosis. Mainly, the patient treated with antibiotics and rinses.

Tumors in the Jaw

Jaw bone tumors are highly rare and can classify as odontoma, giant cell tumor, lymphoma, metastatic tumors, Ewing tumor, multiple myeloma, squamous cell carcinoma, and osteosarcoma. Basic signs are inflammation, tenderness, and pain in the jaw.

Referred Pain through The Upper Back and Chest

Sometimes a pain originates from a particular organ but felt at a distant location in the body. Such pain is normally known as referred pain.

Heart Attack, Angina Pectoris, Pericarditis

During the heart attack, an extreme throbbing pain felt on the rear side of the breastbone that stays for more than 5 minutes and could result in death at times. Accompanied by the chest pain, the heart attack could also cause jaw pain or pain in other far away organs.

Signs of coronary heart disease known as angina pectoris could result in throbbing pain on the rear side of the breastbone. However, unlike a heart attack, the pain arising from angina pectoris remains for less than 5 minutes. The pain could also generally spread on the left side of the body towards the neck, teeth, arm, shoulder, fingers, hand, and in part linking the shoulder blades. Other signs involve sweating, nausea, dizziness and lack of breathing.

Pericarditis is the swelling of the heart sac resulting in continuous throbbing pain in the chest that could elevate as you bend. Simultaneously, pain also felt in the jaw, arm or the neck.

Acid Reflux

As per the free reports, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease linked with throbbing chest pain as well as pain in the throat and between the shoulder blades, pain in the jaw, and a sense of metallic taste resulting after consuming food, especially at night.

Myofascial Pain Syndrome

Myofascial pain syndrome is a condition where a shooting pain starts in the jaw as well as other parts of the face when pressure applied on several trigger points such as taut bands or muscle knots in the platysma (neck muscles) and trapezius (upper back muscles). Myofascial pain syndrome found among office goers and athletes/women.

Trismus or Lock Jaw (Pain Felt When You Open the Mouth)

A condition of incapability to open the mouth completely or elevating pain felt while talking, chewing or yawning is called trismus or lockjaw. It results because of the twinge in the mastication muscles (pterygoids, temporalis, masseter).


  • Grinding teeth or clenching jaw (bruxism), chewing fingernails
  • Tooth removal or root canal procedure or surgery
  • Temporomandibular joint disorders
  • Swelling or infection inside the mouth (gingivitis, periodontitis), parotid glands (sialolithiasis, sialadenitis, mumps), throat (strep throat, tonsillitis), external ear (swimmers ear), submandibular salivary glands, meningitis, rabies, tetanus, brain abscess, trichiniasis, acute jaw osteomyelitis
  • Surgery in the jaw or mouth
  • A precancerous swelling under the lining of the mouth linked with chewing areca nut, generally common in South Asia is known as oral submucous fibrosis. Signs are ulcers and dry mouth.
  • Strychnine poisoning
  • Stroke
  • History
  • Malingering
  • Giant cell arteritis
  • Pharyngeal cancer
  • Drugs: Ecstasy (MDMA), tricyclic antidepressants, phenothiazines, antipsychotics, metoclopramide, succinyl choline
  • A genetic storage disease is known as more gauche disease
  • Myositis (polymyositis), scleroderma, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
  • Chemotherapy or radiation therapy of the head or neck
  • Pain muscles spasms because of hypocalcemia is known as tetany, seizure

This condition treated with muscle relaxants, analgesics, and heat therapy.

Other Reasons for Pain in the Jaw

  • Periodontal disease (bad breath, loose teeth, isolated gums)
  • Phantom tooth pain or atypical odontalgia resulting before root canal surgery or tooth extraction
  • Cervical spine disorders like arthritis, cervical spondylosis, herniated or swollen disc resulting pain in one side of lower jaw, neck, and rear section on the head.
  • CFS (Chronic fatigue syndrome) causing fatigue that doesn’t cure itself by resting or sleep, depression, musculoskeletal pains, dry mouth, etc.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) (fatigue not relieved by rest or sleep, indistinct musculoskeletal pains, depression, dry mouth, etc.)
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome resulting from pressure on the brachial plexus – nerves located along the spine section on the neck towards the armpit to the arm and causes pain in the lower jaw, arm, and shoulder.

Outline of Reasons for Pain in the Jaw

Pain in the Jaw and Ear

  • Bell’s palsy
  • Swimmer’s ear
  • TMD (temporomandibular disorder)
  • Strep throat
  • Glossopharyngeal neuralgia
  • Infection of the middle ear (otitis media)

Pain in the Jaw after or during Eating

  • Fracture in the jaw, osteonecrosis or osteomyelitis
  • TMD (temporomandibular disorder)
  • Abscess or dental caries, dental work, impacted third molars or wisdom tooth
  • First bite syndrome is a condition causing agonizing pain or cramps under the ear as well as on one side of the mandible that lasts for some seconds just before a couple of bites of the meal (generally acidic foods). It happens after some days of a surgical operation in the parotid glands or the upper neck. This condition heals eventually after some months.

Pain in the jaw due to Alcohol Consumption

Consuming alcohol along with some food can also result in throbbing pain under the ear and along the jaw line for a few minutes. General reasons are as follows:

  • Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Constant swelling of the sialadenitis (salivary glands) which caused by Sjögren’s syndrome, a common disorder with dry mouth.
  • As per the informal reports, few drinks such as wine (generally red), tequila, margarita, or beer, when consumed with a fermented diet like artisan rye bread or sourdough can result in throbbing pain along jaw line on both or one side lasting for 10 minutes, but doesn’t recur with consequent drinking. It believed that the alcohol backflow into the parotid gland duct could trigger momentary inflammation of the parotid gland. Sialolithiasis (salivary gland stones) can also be one of the reasons causing this condition. Rinsing mouth with water is helpful.

Pain in the Jaw during Night

  • Trigeminal neuralgia
  • TMD (Temporomandibular disorder)
  • Acid reflux

Pain in the Jaw during Pregnancy

Pain in the jaw during pregnancy often occurs because of the loose ligaments over the temporomandibular joint. Other related problems are pelvic pain and coccyx pain resulting from symphysis pubis dysfunction.

Instant, Extreme, Burning Pain in the Jaw

  • Carotidynia
  • First bite syndrome
  • Trigeminal or glossopharyngeal neuralgia

Hammering Jaw Pain

  • Carotidynia
  • Trigeminal neuralgia
  • Temporal arteritis
  • Tooth abscess, dry socket before tooth removal, unsuccessful root canal procedure
  • Facial migraine

Pain in the Bilateral Jaw

  • Mumps
  • Strep throat, viral tonsillitis
  • TMD (temporomandibular disorder)

Constant Jaw Pain

  • Facial migraine
  • Atypical facial pain
  • Impacted third molars, tooth abscess

Diagnosing Jaw Pain

Physical examination can diagnose most of the causes of pain in the jaw

Proper X-ray can reveal tooth abscesses, tumors, cysts and most major fractures in the jaw bone.

MRI or CT scan can also help in diagnosing tooth abscesses or tumors within the jaw.

Treating Jaw Pain

  1. Get rid of the reason. Causes of Jaw pain such as decaying tooth, clenching of teeth, anxiety, and others can cure with proper treatment.
  2. Massaging the jaw and exercises for jaw under the guidance of a physiotherapist can be helpful in treating the temporomandibular disorder.


Images Copyright: 123RF.com : nebari

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