5 Causes of Jaw Pain and How to Get Relief

If your jaw aches or makes loud sounds when you open and close your mouth, you should make an appointment to see a dentist or doctor. There can be many possible reasons for jaw pain, and delaying treatment could make the problem and the symptoms worse.[1]

Some of the most common causes of jaw pain are:

1. Dislocated jaw

If you feel pain in the sides of your jaw, you have trouble opening or closing your mouth, your lower jaw sticks out or your teeth don't fit together like they normally do, these can all be signs of a dislocated jaw.[2]

Jaws can be knocked out of alignment due to a sporting injury, car crash or other accidental injury. Even opening your mouth too wide can sometimes cause the jaw to dislocate.[2]

Visit your dentist or doctor if you think your jaw may be dislocated. They will take an x-ray of your jaw and recommend the most suitable treatment. Jaws can usually be moved back into their original position manually, but surgery may sometimes be needed.[2]

2. Dental abscess

If you have a severe toothache as well as pain in your jaw, part of your face is swollen or you have a fever, these could all point to a tooth abscess.[3]

You should make an emergency appointment with your dentist, as it may still be possible to save an infected tooth by taking antibiotics, draining the abscess or performing a root canal treatment. If it's not possible to save the tooth, it will need to be extracted to prevent the infection from spreading.[3]

3. Sinusitis

Aching teeth in the upper jaw, the feeling of pressure inside your face, a blocked nose or yellow or green discharge can be signs of sinusitis, the inflammation or infection of the sinuses. You should talk to a doctor if these symptoms persist for longer than a week.[4]

Treatments for sinusitis can include antibiotics, steam inhalation and pain relief medication to help ease the symptoms.[4]

4. Grinding or clenching teeth (bruxism)

If you involuntarily grind your teeth or clench your jaws together when you feel stressed or when you're asleep, this can put strain on the jaw joints and cause pain in the jaws and teeth. Over time, it can even cause teeth to chip or crack.[5]

A dentist can check your teeth for signs of damage and will try to track down what's causing you to grind and clench. For some people, this can be stress-related or because their teeth don't fit together properly. Your dentist will recommend the most suitable treatment for your situation, which may involve wearing a bruxism mouthguard at night to take the strain off your teeth and jaws.[5]

5. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD or TMD)

If your jaw aches, locks or you hear grinding sounds when you eat or open your mouth wide to yawn, these could indicate a problem with the temporomandibular joints (TMJ). These are the joints that connect the lower jaw to the skull and make jaw movements possible.[1]

Your dentist may be able to diagnose TMJ dysfunction and recommend treatments. Depending on what's causing the issue, treatment may involve reshaping teeth to help them fit together better, treating teeth grinding to ease strain on the TMJ or jaw stretching and relaxation exercises.[1]

See a dentist in Sydney

If you have pain in your teeth or jaws or you need to talk to a dentist about anything else, call the Sailors Bay Dental team on (02) 9958 0400 to make an appointment. You can also drop in to our dental clinic at 62 Strathallen Avenue, Northbridge NSW 2063.


[1] Healthdirect. Temporomandibular joint disorder [Online] 2017 [Accessed March 2019] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/temporomandibular-joint-disorder

[2] Healthdirect. Jaw dislocation [Online] 2018 [Accessed March 2019] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/jaw-dislocation

[3] Healthdirect. Tooth abscess [Online] 2017 [Accessed March 2019] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/tooth-abscess

[4] Better Health Channel. Sinusitis [Online] 2011 [Accessed March 2019] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/sinusitis

[5] Better Health Channel. Teeth grinding [Online] 2018 [Accessed March 2019] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/teeth-grinding

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