Pain around your ear and jaw can be worrying, whether you are experiencing a dull ache, soreness, or sharp severe pain. There could be a few common culprits of severe jaw pain.
Pain, as you know, is your body’s natural way of signaling something is wrong. If you grind your teeth, you might have an infection or a joint disorder. Therefore, getting to the bottom of your jaw pain is essential for comfort and to fix the underlying problem – which could otherwise be severe.
Here we discuss the common causes of pain, so read the complete article. If the pain increases, consult with your dentist or healthcare professional.
Jaw Pain – An Overview
Have you ever had jaw pain? It can be a debilitating condition affecting your speaking and eating ability. Many things might cause jaw pain, from your sinuses and ears to your jaw and teeth. It can sometimes be difficult for your dentist to tell if your pain is because of a jaw issue or something else.
Finding out the root cause of your jaw pain can be difficult. It is primarily because there are several sources from which the pain can originate – like muscles, teeth, or bones present in the jaw. The pain could also arise from other areas of your body, like the ears, sinuses, or heart.
What Causes Jaw Pain?
The common causes of severe pain are usually dental issues and disorders that may affect your TMJ joint – the joint that connects your skull to the lower jaw bone.
Most of the causes of pain are due to an injury or abnormality to the joint of your jaw. But there could be other possible causes as well. Here are some of the reasons for this kind of pain:
1. Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder (TMD)
The problem is commonly referred to as TMDs. Today, it is one the most common causes of pain, affecting more than 10 million Americans alone. Commonly known as TMJ or Temporomandibular joint – it allows your mouth to open and close.
The temporomandibular disorder or TMD only arises when the joints malfunction, creating symptoms such as pain and swelling on your face on the left and right sides. The TMJ is the hinge joint located on each side of your jaw. The TMJ pain or TMJ disorder should be addressed at the earliest.
There can be several factors that may cause TMD. It is also possible to experience TMD due to several causes – all at the same time. Some of the common causes of TMD could include:
- Muscles that control jaw movement might cause pain.
- Injury to the jaw joint.
- When there is excess stimulation to your jaw joint.
- A displaced disc that might help cushion the movements of the jaw.
- Arthritis of the protective disc, which is located at the jaw joint.
The most common symptom and indication of TMJ disorder include jaw tenderness. You will feel a toothache, headache, or even an earache. The pain might worsen when chewing, and you might hear or feel a popping noise when eating.
In such a scenario, you might also experience a decreased jaw range of motion. Moreover, this condition might be associated with neck pain, stiffness, and shoulder pain that radiates down your arm.
2. Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)
Bruxism or teeth grinding issues might result in pain since many people do this while sleeping. At times one may not realize that you are grinding your teeth.
Symptoms of bruxism often include jaw, face, and neck pain, headaches, and dental problems. It may also lead to worn-down and fractured teeth.
Besides teeth grinding, other muscle overuse conditions often include – excessive gum chewing and teeth clenching. All these conditions might cause jaw pain.
3. Jaw Pain Due to Toothaches
It is important to note that multiple dental problems could be linked with this pain. For instance, a cracked or broken tooth may cause dull, intermittent, or sharp pain triggered when you eat or bite.
A tooth cavity might also cause constant pain that may worsen by hot or cold food. Dental problems like dry sockets and tooth abscesses may also lead to pain. A dental abscess or a severe tooth infection may cause severe pain that radiates to your jaw.
4. Infection or Sinus Infection
An infection around the head and neck area, specifically a sinus or ear infection, might also be the cause. Other sinusitis symptoms include fever, headache, toothache, nasal congestion, and cheek pain.
The sinuses are air-filled cavities located close to the jaw joint. When the sinuses become infected with a germ, like a virus or a bacterium, it could result in excess mucus. The excess mucus in the mouth area puts pressure on your jaw joint, which causes severe pain.
Likewise, besides severe pain – a few other symptoms of an ear infection may include nausea, difficulty hearing, vertigo, and, occasionally, ear drainage.
Injuries to the face or jaw, including a dislocated or broken jaw, could cause significant pain.
Some Rare Causes of Jaw Pain
While most cases of jaw pain are often linked to a TMJ problem, dental issues or infections are other causes that your dentist needs to consider.
1. Heart Attack
Jaw pain may signal a heart attack – a life-threatening condition requiring immediate medical attention. One may feel a crushing or heavy feeling in the center or left side of the chest that might move upwards to the jaw or neck area. In such a scenario – it could indicate a heart attack.
Other heart attack symptoms often include difficulty breathing, sweating, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and weakness. You should call the emergency number when you have a heart attack.
2. Trigeminal Neuralgia
It is a severely painful condition affecting the trigeminal nerve. This sensitive nerve will help you detect facial sensations and move your jaw.
This condition may lead to one-sided attacks. You may experience a sharp, electric-shock-like pain especially in the eyes, nose, lips, jaw, forehead, and scalp. The pain is usually triggered when you talk, eat, or expose your face to cold air.
3. Autoimmune Conditions
The conditions might include Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus may also cause jaw pain. They are specific symptoms quite similar to those of TMJ disorder.
4. Osteonecrosis of the Jaw
The condition may occur when the blood supply to your bone is disrupted. Meaning the bone starts to die. It could cause severe pain. It is important to note that excessive alcohol consumption can lead to osteonecrosis. Other conditions may also result in this condition where the patient experiences severe jaw pain.
Certain types of cancer, especially oral cancer, often results in severe pain in the face and jaw. With oral cancer, you may notice other symptoms too, such as a sore in the mouth that would ont heal. You may also notice persistent pain in the mouth, trouble chewing your food or moving the jaw. Other symptoms include loosening of the teeth, swelling of the jaw, and at times a lump or mass in the neck area.
It may surprise you that the above list of pain causes is not exhaustive. In simple terms, you need to seek out for a proper diagnosis from your dentist. Your dentist may take dental X-rays of your jaws to capture images of the interior of your mouth.
The majority of pain in your jaw is rarely related to medical emergencies, but if your discomfort is severe and prolonged, it may have serious consequences. If your pain is linked to signs and symptoms like chest pain, sweating, trouble breathing, or dizziness, – be sure to seek immediate medical attention.
Medical Treatment for Jaw Pain
Your dentist would first recommend non-invasive treatment methods to diminish your pain. If you still have persistent pain in the jaw after these methods, you should talk to your dentist. You might need further interventions to find relief.
Mouth guard: A mouth guard as you know is simply a plastic dental protector. You need to wear it on your upper or lower teeth. The design is such that it is custom-fitted for your mouth. You can purchase one at the pharmacy, but your dentist would prefer to make one that fits better and lasts longer. If you wear the mouth guard at bedtime, it could help stop you from unconsciously grinding your teeth.
Muscle relaxers: In case your pain does not respond to the mouth guard, your dentist may prescribe muscle relaxers to relieve your jaw tension. However, this solution may not always help people with TMD.
Botox injections: Apart from the above, other invasive treatment methods include Botox cosmetic injections. When your doctor injects it into your jaw muscles, the botulinum toxin in Botox might keep the jaw muscles from clenching. The condition might help to relieve pain due to TMD. These injections often last for months, and you may require re-injection in the future.
Jaw surgery: In rare instances, your dentist will recommend jaw surgery to correct TMD problems. This treatment is usually reserved for patients with severe pain caused due to structural issues in the jaw joint.
You should note that getting to the bottom of your jaw pain may require a little patience and persistence on your end. Especially when you find you are visiting your dentist and doctor too often. Be assured that once the source is identified and diagnosed, most individuals can obtain relief and treatment.
As you can notice, pain in your face, jaw, cheekbones, or chin could have many causes. Your healthcare professional or dentist can treat all these issues successfully, but they must be diagnosed quickly.
In order to determine the exact source of your pain, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist. A thorough examination by your dentist would help to identify the precise cause of the problem and, at the same time, the treatment plan.