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Why Does My Jaw Hurt?

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Do you experience sudden sharp stabbing pain on one or both sides of your jaw? Is it often followed by pain and ringing sensation in your ears?

These are conditions that develop after physical trauma or accident that involve the face, jaw, and neck regions.

Typical jaw pain is not necessarily life-threatening. However, it may signify other medical issues such as dental infection, temporomandibular joint disorder, and sinus problems. It is usually followed by symptoms of pain, difficulty chewing or eating, headache and dizziness.

Although jaw pain is not always a serious problem. It can become life-threatening and aggravate underlying medical health issues if left untreated in prolonged cases.

Common Reasons for Your Jaw Hurting

A myriad of issues can cause jaw pain or it can arise from underlying medical conditions.

Sinus Problems

Sinus is air-filled cavities containing blood but without the normal coatings of blood vessels. They are located in the temporomandibular joints. They can get infected and be filled with pus, which eventually puts pressure on surrounding joints and leads to jaw pain.

Headaches

Cluster and tension headaches are common to cause pain behind or around your eyes. This pain and discomfort may then travel down to your jaw.

Heart attack

Heart attack-related pain is more severe. Symptoms that usually follow include breath shortness, feeling faint, nausea and vomiting, sweating, and chest pain or discomfort.

Physical Trauma

Physical injury, severe hit, or strain can lead to TMJ, broken or dislocated jaw. Sudden wide opening or yawning can also cause jaw dislocation.

Temporomandibular joint disorder

TMD is a dysfunction of the jaw. It is one of the leading causes of jaw pain. It is usually triggered by a joint injury, displaced disc, arthritis, bruxism or teeth grinding and clenching, excess joint stimulation. This condition can affect other areas of the body, like the face, neck, and chest region.

Dental Infection

Gum disease, cavity, tooth abscess, tooth gap, and the damaged tooth can also stimulate jaw pain. This is because there are blood vessels and nerve endings in the gum connected to the jaw.

Symptoms Of Jaw Pain

Symptoms can range from mild to chronic and they may trigger other complications.

Pain

Pain and discomfort are the most prevailing symptom of jaw problems, especially in prolonged cases. It may be a persistent, throbbing, sharp, stabbing, or a dull ache, occurring on either the left or right side of your face. It may also spread to your ears and neck.

Difficulty

Jaw pain can make normal easy tasks like eating, chewing, or talking can become difficult. Pressure is put on inflamed jaw joints that lead to inconvenience.

Headaches

Migraines, clusters, or tension headaches may occur with ear pain and pressure around the eyes, on one or both sides of your ears or around your face. It may also be accompanied by earache and facial swelling.

Dizziness

The middle ear nerves and muscles responsible for balance and gravity are connected to the jaw. Vertigo occurs when signals are scrambled with a break in signal transmission.

Other symptoms associated with jaw pain are:

  • Fever caused by infection
  • Tinnitus or ringing in one or both ears
  • Infections along with jaw and muscle tenderness
  • Problems with jaw alignment
  • Limited mouth range of motion
  • Tooth, neck, and shoulder pain
  • Numbness in the tongue

When Should I Be Concerned About My Jaw Hurt

There are symptoms of jaw pain that show a life-threatening situation or trigger serious medical conditions that should be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Symptoms that may be a cause for alarm are:

Chest Pain

Stifling pain and pressure may show a serious issue. It may even spread to your neck, arms, and shoulders and cause heart attacks.

Sweating

Sweating is a metabolic process, it’s one way through which your body sheds waste. If sweat is minimal, then it is normal. However, excess sweating may signal the onset of critical conditions.

Swallowing Difficulty

Jaw pain is often followed by chewing, eating, and talking problems, which may lead to difficulty swallowing and become quite serious.

Locked jaw

A locked jaw may lead to a misaligned structure of the jaw and surrounding joints. This can seriously affect functionality and well-being.

Difficulty Breathing

Do you also experience shortness of breath? Breathing difficulties?. This is a major concern that can become debilitating. Contact your doctor immediately if you notice it.

Causes Of Ear And Jaw Pain

There are muscles and nerves connecting the middle ear to the jaw. An infection or inflammation of one of these is bound to affect the other. Common causes of ear and jaw pain are:

TMJ dysfunction

Ear and jaw pain can arise from TMJ disorder. When an inflammation occurs in the temporomandibular joints, it leads to pain and discomfort. However, Pain is not only restricted to the affected area as it can spread to surrounding muscles.

Migraines

Migraines are a severe headache that occurs on one side of your head. It is followed by sensitivity to light, sound, and smell. This headache can reoccur and trigger ear and jaw pain.

Sinusitis

This is a condition characterized by cold allergies and irritated or inflamed nasal passages. Sinusitis is generally caused by viruses, although some are caused by bacteria. Individuals with sinusitis are more likely to develop ear and jaw pain.

Dental Issue

Dental problems are more common nowadays, it is caused by bacteria buildup on your teeth and gum, resulting in cavities, dental abscesses. When left untreated, these infections can lead to ear and jaw pain.

Bruxism

This is an unhealthy habit triggered by stress and anxiety. Continuous grinding and clenching of your teeth can cause TMD, ear and jaw pain, misaligned teeth, and muscle strain.

Symptoms Of Ear Related Jaw Pain

These are signs you may experience ear pain besides jaw pain. They may exist separately or together.

  • Facial pain
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sharp persistent ache on one side of your head
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Itching and odd nasal discharge
  • Diminishing hearing abilities
  • Fever
  • Clogged nasal passage
  • Swelling in affected gum
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Food sensitivity, most especially hot and cold types
  • Pain in the face and lower neck
  • Loose tooth
  • Heightened pain when you lie down

Diagnosis Of Jaw Pain

A diagnosis is required for proper and effective treatment. It is done to determine the most suitable option for you and your condition. To diagnose the underlying cause, your doctor will ask a series of questions and perform some exams. Questionnaire includes;

  • When the pain started
  • Where the pain occurs
  • Duration of pain and discomfort
  • How does the pain develop? suddenly, intermittently, constantly, or gradually?
  • Other occurring symptoms such as tooth pain
  • Activities that worsen or aggravate pain
  • History of dental exam done

After this, a physical exam, imaging, and tests are carried out. A physical exam is done to determine the most affected and tender area. Tests involve dental X-rays and scans to examine the insides of the joint.

Treatment For Jaw Pain

Jaw pain may resolve on its own or prevail for a long time and worse. There are various treatment methods available depending on the severity of your condition and associated symptoms. The most common treatments include:

Medications

Anti-inflammatory drugs to manage pain and other symptoms. Although these are over-the-counter medicines, contact your doctor for a prescription before buying or taking them.

Surgery

This is a more complicated procedure that is irreversible. It is only advisable in severe cases because of the risks associated. Surgery is performed after a thorough diagnosis and assessment of occurring symptoms.

Implants

Implants are plastic devices worn over the affected area to restructure misaligned jaw joints. There are also risks attached, as devices may malfunction or get broken.

How Can I Prevent Ear And Jaw Pain?

There are several home remedies and self-care practices that can be incorporated into your daily routine to help and prevent jaw pain.

Home remedies

These are simple tasks that can be easily applied to your daily activities. A consistent follow-up of these exercises can help relieve and ease your pain.

It involves jaw exercises that relax jaw joints and facial joints.

Self-Care Practices

Easy DIY procedures that focus on counteracting unhealthy lifestyle habits. It includes:

  • Change your diet, eat more soft foods
  • Apply a warm or cold compress to the affected jaw area
  • Perform simple jaw exercises like slowly opening and closing your mouth
  • Stop chewing on hard objects
  • Practice stress management techniques
  • Avoid extreme jaw movements
  • Gently massage affected joints to increase circulation

Conclusion

Jaw pain should not be overlooked regardless of its severity, whether it’s mild or serious. Although sometimes it also signifies other medical conditions. If you develop jaw pain along with other severe symptoms, go for a proper diagnosis before treatment. This is to avoid complications and adverse side effects of not using the most suitable treatment method for the prevailing condition.

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