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What Jaw Pain Means: What Causes It and How to Treat It

Is your jaw hurting? It could be due to dental problems like a toothache or TMJ Disorder, or it might even indicate a more serious condition. Our dentists in Kelowna will explain what could be causing your jaw pain and what steps you can take to alleviate the discomfort.

What causes jaw pain?

If you are experiencing pain in your jaw, it could be a sign of a dental problem like a toothache or TMJ Disorder, or it could indicate a more severe condition.

TMJ Disorders

One of the most common causes of jaw pain is TMJ Disorder. The temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull (located just below your temple, in front of your ear). This hinge plays a large role in your everyday life, allowing you to talk, breathe and eat.

TMJ Disorders happen when there's a problem with your facial and jaw muscles. If the disorder worsens and you feel pain in that area, it might eventually limit your ability to move the joint.

Causes of TMJ Disorders can include:

  • Certain conditions or illnesses like arthritis
  • Inflammation in the muscles surrounding your jaw
  • Jaw misalignment
  • Injury to the jaw

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder may include:

  • Pain or ache around your jaw, face or ears
  • Frequent headaches
  • Locking or popping in your jaw
  • Dizziness
  • Vision problems
  • Ringing in ears

If you have concerns about your TMJ, it would be best to visit your dentist for a professional opinion and possible treatment or exercise recommendations. In some cases, prescription medication or surgery may be necessary to address the issue.


Though we take many routine vaccines in childhood that have fortunately gotten rid of diseases, it's still possible to get diseases that can cause jaw pain and other symptoms.

Tetanus is a bacterial infection that can cause your jaw muscles to stiffen or feel tight. This serious condition can result in spending weeks in hospital.


Just like other bones in your body, your jaw can become fractured or dislocated. After taking a blow to the jaw, you may experience:

  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Bruises
  • Pain
  • Swelling

Depending on the injury, you may need to see your dentist if the pain doesn't go away, you are missing teeth or you're unable to chew or open and close your mouth. Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen may help, in addition to dental treatment if necessary.

Dental Issues

A variety of dental issues can lead to a sore jaw. These can include:

  • Fractured or crowded teeth
  • Toothache (typically with an abscess or cavity as the underlying cause)
  • Teeth grinding
  • Gum disease (which can cause your jaw bone to become damaged)
  • Wisdom teeth erupting
  • Misaligned teeth

These problems should be addressed as soon as possible, and fractured teeth are dental emergencies, so you should see your dentist right away. Until then, keep the tooth that hurts clean and try rinsing with warm water.

Cysts or Tumors

Odontogenic cysts or tumors, while typically non-cancerous, can greatly affect your teeth. Surgical removal might be necessary.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are a type of headache that can be extremely painful, often causing discomfort around or behind one eye and radiating pain that extends to the jaw.


This condition can affect your mandible because it is a type of infection that occurs in the bone (lower jaw). If left untreated, anaerobic osteomyelitis can cut off the blood supply to your jaw and damage bone tissue.

How can I get rid of jaw pain?

At-Home Care

  • To alleviate discomfort in your jaw, you can alternate between applying a warm, damp washcloth and a cloth-covered ice pack for 10 minutes each, with 10-minute breaks in between.
  • It is recommended to use over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
  • Rub the affected joint. Massage the joint using your fingers, pressing the sore areas of your jaw and moving to the side of your neck.
  • It's best to avoid caffeine as it may contribute to muscle tension.

Dental Care

If your jaw pain persists after at-home remedies, make an appointment with your dentist.

At Landmark Dental Centre, our dentists will discuss your symptoms with you, complete a comprehensive oral examination, explain possible treatment options, and develop a custom treatment plan that may include a mouthguard or other measures depending on your needs. 

In rare cases, oral surgery for TMJ Disorder may be recommended to correct the problem for those with severe pain that suffer from structural problems in their jaw and haven't found relief with other remedies or treatments.

If you are suffering from jaw pain, please don't hesitate to contact our dentists in Kelowna to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.

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We are accepting new patients, don't hesitate to contact us and take the first step in achieving better oral health outcomes.

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