Kristin Hayes is a Registered Nurse who has been caring for both pediatric and adult patients who have undergone surgical procedures for disorders of the ear, nose and throat for nine years. Working closely with ENT physicians, she not only cares for these patients, but educates them about their condition and teaches them how to care for themselves at home. Read more
Updated December 04, 2014.
Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.
Question: What Causes Jaw Pain?
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We will discuss known causes of jaw pain as well as any other signs or symptoms that may accompany these conditions below.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)
Teeth grinding, also called, bruxism, can cause jaw pain and since many people grind their teeth while they are asleep, you may not be aware that you are doing it. Some research suggests that up to 8% of adults grind their teeth during sleep. Symptoms of bruxism include jaw, face, and neck pain, headaches, and dental problems including fractured teeth. Your dentist may notice signs of wear on your teeth that may indicate grinding. Mouth guards can be helpful in treating this condition.
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Talk to your dentist about other treatments and ways to prevent teeth grinding.
In addition to teeth grinding there are multiple other dental problems associated with jaw pain including cavities, tooth abscess or infections.
There is also something called a neurovascular toothache which causes intermittent, throbbing pain that feels like a toothache and may radiate to the jaw, face, neck, or shoulder. Even though this pain feels like a classic toothache. your dentist is unable to find anything wrong with your teeth.
Sinusitis can cause pain in the face including the jaw. Other symptoms of sinusitis include headaches, toothaches, earaches. and congestion. Sinusitis frequently occurs after you have had a cold.
Jaw pain can actually be
referred pain from an ear infection. Ear infections are more common in children than adults although they can occur at any age, and can cause ear pain. a feeling of fullness, pain, or pressure in the ear, hearing loss. loss of balance, nausea and vomiting, and occasionally ear drainage. Like sinusitis, ear infections, often occur after you have had a cold.
Swollen Lymph Nodes
Swollen lymph nodes in the neck may cause referred pain to the jaw. Swollen lymph nodes usually occur as the result of an infection such as strep throat. a cold virus. or the flu so you may have symptoms of these illnesses such as a sore throat. You may be able to palpate the lymph nodes in your neck, which may feel like a hard lump.
Arthritis or Fibromyalgia
Conditions such a rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia which can cause widespread muscle and joint pain may also cause jaw pain. Chronic fatigue syndrome may also cause jaw pain.
Injuries to the jaw or face, including a dislocated or broken jaw can cause significant pain.
Trigeminal neuralgia is a painful condition that affects the trigeminal nerve. In addition to jaw pain it may cause severe stabbing pain or pain that feels like an electric shock in the lips, eyes, nose, forehead and scalp.
Osteonecrosis of the Jaw
Osteonecrosis occurs when the blood supply to a bone is disrupted and can cause severe pain. Causes of osteonecrosis include excessive alcohol consumption, the use of corticosteroid medications, or trauma.
Some types of cancer
As previously mentioned jaw pain can occur during a heart attack. Pain tends to come on suddenly and may be accompanied by crushing chest pain, which may radiate down the arm and affect the neck and jaw. Difficulty breathing, anxiety and sweating may also occur. If you or someone you are with may be having a heart attack go to the emergency room or call 911.