What Causes a Jaw Ache?

Lori Smith
Lori Smith
Jaw pain can be associated with a medical condition or a dental one.
Jaw pain can be associated with a medical condition or a dental one.

There are several potential causes for a jaw ache. Most commonly, discomfort occurs as a result of bruxism — also called nighttime teeth grinding — or gum chewing, a sinus infection, and various types of dental problems. Some people experience pain after eating foods that require excessive chewing, such as steak, causing the joints to become fatigued. Occasionally, a jaw ache is a symptom of something more serious, such as a heart attack.

In some cases, heart problems can cause jaw pain.
In some cases, heart problems can cause jaw pain.

An individual who grinds his teeth at night often experiences headaches or facial discomfort upon awakening. This usually occurs as a results of continuous tension and pressure on the jaw muscles from clinching teeth together during sleep. It generally creates painful inflammation in the joints. An early morning jaw ache is often caused by this condition, also known as bruxism. A custom-fitted mouthpiece worn at night usually helps.

Jaw clenching may in response to stress can cause serious pain.
Jaw clenching may in response to stress can cause serious pain.

Some people grind or clench their teeth more often during periods of extreme stress, even during waking hours. Many times, they do not even realize they are doing it. Adopting stress management techniques, like deep breathing exercises, yoga, or a therapeutic massage can help relieve tension.

Sometimes, a jaw ache can occur after periods of excessive chewing. People who chew a lot of gum, for example, or shortly after consuming meat, can suffer from subsequent discomfort. Temporarily adjusting to predominately softer foods and avoiding chewy ones can give sore facial muscles an opportunity to heal. If the pain persists, the cause may be attributed to an underlying dental problem or a symptom of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.

Some dental issues are determined via an x-ray.
Some dental issues are determined via an x-ray.

A dental visit can usually help identify the source of a jaw ache. An oral exam and a simple diagnostic test, such as an X-ray, may help determine the best course of treatment. If an infection is present, an oral antibiotic may be prescribed. Alternatively, the dentist may discover that temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder is present. Over time, the person suffering from the condition may experience recurring headaches and jaw pain. A clicking or popping noise is usually evident each time the mouth is opened or closed. Depending on the extent of the disorder, various methods may be used to correct this, which may be as simple as performing daily facial exercises.

Those who clench their teeth during sleep may experience headaches upon awakening.
Those who clench their teeth during sleep may experience headaches upon awakening.

Jaw pain is sometimes associated with a medical condition as opposed to a dental one. A sinus infection, for example, may cause facial discomfort. Once the infection is cured, the pain usually subsides. A medical doctor can usually diagnose and treat an individual suffering from this type of an infection, which usually eliminates the source of a jaw ache.

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    • Jaw pain can be associated with a medical condition or a dental one.
      By: detailblick
      Jaw pain can be associated with a medical condition or a dental one.
    • In some cases, heart problems can cause jaw pain.
      By: forestpath
      In some cases, heart problems can cause jaw pain.
    • Jaw clenching may in response to stress can cause serious pain.
      By: kmiragaya
      Jaw clenching may in response to stress can cause serious pain.
    • Some dental issues are determined via an x-ray.
      By: Georgiy Pashin
      Some dental issues are determined via an x-ray.
    • Those who clench their teeth during sleep may experience headaches upon awakening.
      By: berc
      Those who clench their teeth during sleep may experience headaches upon awakening.
    • Jaw aches can be related to dental issues.
      By: sergmar
      Jaw aches can be related to dental issues.
    • Certain medical conditions can create an urge to grind teeth while asleep.
      By: Alex Bramwell
      Certain medical conditions can create an urge to grind teeth while asleep.
    • Mouth guards are often used to prevent people from grinding their teeth.
      By: deeaf
      Mouth guards are often used to prevent people from grinding their teeth.
    • Yoga and breathing exercises may help relieve jaw ache tension.
      By: sanneberg
      Yoga and breathing exercises may help relieve jaw ache tension.