Health & Wellbeing

Why Does My Jaw Hurt?

The jaw pain causes you need to know about now.
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Maybe you’re biting into your lunch, and you notice your jaw won’t stop clicking and popping, or perhaps you wake up in the morning unable to open your mouth without pain – most of us have experienced clicking, grinding, tension and even pain. 

But, as jaw pain can affect how we eat, speak and sleep, knowing the underlying causes can prevent a lot of health problems. We’ve made a list of the most common causes of jaw pain and what you can do about it.

Jaw Pain Cause 1: TMD

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) is the leading cause of jaw pain. TMD is a condition that affects the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), the joint that connects the jaw to the skull.

TMD can result in symptoms such as jaw pain, difficulty when chewing, clicking or popping sounds and headaches. According to the TMJ Centre Melbourne, TMD affects 20-30 per cent of the adult population but, is most common in women and people between the ages of 20 and 40. 

Jaw Pain Cause 2: Stress

If you’re a stress head, chances are you’re familiar with muscle tension around your shoulders and neck, similarly, this tension can occur in the face and neck. When stressed, we may unintentionally clench our jaw or grind our teeth, a condition known as bruxism.

Those who experience mild bruxism may not need treatment, however severe bruxism can lead to jaw disorders, headaches and damaged teeth. While it’s difficult to monitor unintentional grinding, especially at night, if you suspect you’re a “grinder” your dentist might recommend a splint to help protect your teeth.

Jaw pain
(Credit: Getty)

Jaw Pain Cause 3: Teeth Misalignment

While teeth alignment is often done for cosmetic reasons nowadays, misaligned or damaged teeth can cause strain on the jaw muscles over time.

A consultation with a dentist will help to identify any dental and oral contributing factors, such misaligned teeth, deep bites or worn-down teeth, to enable further investigation and a recommendation for a treatment plan.

For some cases a dentist may suggest braces, headgear, an upper jaw expander or jaw surgery.

Jaw Pain Cause 4: Infection

Mouth-related conditions like gum disease are often a cause of jaw pain, however other bacterial infections such as sinusitis or tetanus can also result in severe soreness.

Jaw pain from stress and jaw pain from infection can share some similarities in terms of how they might feel or be experienced, but there are also distinct differences that can help differentiate between the two. For example, jaw pain from stress often feels like muscle tightness or discomfort while pain from infection tends to be more persistent, severe and intense. It is often described as throbbing, sharp or continuous.

Tired woman
(Credit: Getty)

Jaw Pain Cause 5: Sleep Apnoea

Jaw problems can often present secondary to a greater health condition. Sleep issues, snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea play a very important role in jaw pain.

Jaw pain is often multifactorial and can involve various components of the jaw, muscles and joints, airway as well as psychosocial factors.

When to seek help for jaw pain?

If you’re experiencing jaw pain, seek help immediately if pain lasts more than a few days or is getting worse. Difficulty opening your mouth, clicking, popping or grating sounds, chronic headaches or tooth sensitivity are other symptoms that present in an individual. Not sleeping well or having a restless sleep and headaches in the morning are also signs to look out for.

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