Do you ever have a pain in your jaw that just won’t go away? You’re not alone. It’s estimated that about 70 percent of the population will experience some form of jaw pain in their lifetime. And it can be a truly awful feeling, too: a dull ache you’ve been living with for months or even years.
But why does this happen? What causes jaw pain and why is it so difficult to get rid of?
Find out more about what causes these types of pains and how you can make them go away.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of jaw pain? Well, it really depends on the person. But often times people will experience: headaches, a clicking or popping sound when they open their mouth, neck pain, dizziness and ringing in the ears.
There are many different reasons behind the pain in your jaw.
For example, TMJ disorder is a condition that affects the temporomandibular joint (the structure between your jaw and skull). The symptoms of this type of disorder include:
- Popping or grinding sounds when opening or closing mouth
- Earache on same side as affected jaw
- Headache or neck ache
- Difficulty chewing or biting down sharply with one particular tooth pattern due to muscle spasms from strain put on muscles by misaligned bite.
But why does you jaw pop?
Although it may seem harmless, your jaw popping could be a sign of something much more serious. If you’re experiencing this symptom regularly there’s a chance that you could have temporomandibular joint disorder (or TMD).
TMD is caused by the ligaments in your joints becoming worn out and inflamed from over-stressing them. As these ligaments wear down, they cause pain when opening or closing your mouth, which usually results in frequent popping or clicking sounds.
In addition to TMD, there can be other causes for why you’re experiencing these types of pains. Some examples include: worn out teeth or braces, impacted wisdom teeth, arthritis, gum disease and a jaw fracture.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms (especially if they persist for more than a week), then it’s best to go see your dentist or orthodontist. If you think your pain may be related to dental problems, then it’s best to see a professional who can help diagnose and treat the issue.
How to Get Your Jaw to Stop Hurting
So what can you do to make the pain go away? Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.
But here are some tips that may help:
See your dentist or orthodontist
If you can’t eat right because your jaw hurts when you open your mouth, see your dentist. The discomfort may be related to dental problems, and only a professional can help diagnose and treat the issue.
Take ibuprofen or another over-the-counter pain reliever
This can help reduce inflammation and ease the pain until you can get medical treatment.
Apply ice packs or heat pads to the affected area
When you have jaw pain on one side, the localized pain may stop you from going about your routine. Ice packs or heat pads can help soothe the discomfort and muscle spasms from the pain.
If you have a history of TMJ disorder or jaw pain, then quitting can help prevent the issue from getting worse and provide some immediate relief for your symptoms.
Avoid chewing gum, hard foods, ice cubes and tough materials (like paper)
This can be difficult at first but it’s an effective way to avoid putting excess strain on your mouth muscles while waiting for treatment.
If none of this helps improve things, consider seeing a doctor who specializes in treating ear and jaw conditions. They may be able to recommend further treatments that could make all the difference.
Prevention tips for Ear and Jaw Pain
One of the easiest things you could do is to make sure you’re using the correct toothpaste to prevent any further damage. Look for one that contains fluoride and is designed specifically to protect teeth from cavities, gum disease and decay.
But what’s going on when someone experiences ear and jaw pain?
To understand why this happens, it’s important to understand what causes jaw pain in the first place.
Many people think that one particular event – like biting down on hard food or chewing gum too much – can be responsible for why you’re experiencing ear and jaw pain.
But the truth is: there are many things that contribute toward these types of issues and they all work together as a big “combination” (so to speak) instead of just one thing causing everything.
For example, let’s say someone constantly clenches their teeth due to stress at work; over time, those constant muscle contractions could lead them toward having inflammation and maybe even some mild arthritis (which is basically when your body starts producing extra bone matter to protect itself).
Or let’s say someone wears braces for their entire teenage years. If they don’t wear a retainer after getting them taken off, then over time the jawbone may shift and cause some slight misalignment in their bite pattern (which can also lead to inflammation of the joints later on down the road).
And if you have an untreated cavity that affects one specific tooth, it could possibly give way toward why you’re experiencing ear and jaw pain. When you experience this type of discomfort, it’s usually because there is something “off” with your bite. One or several teeth aren’t lined up correctly, which can lead to problems with your jaw joint, muscles and ligaments. Jaw pain is one the reasons to make sure you’re looking after your oral health.
Medical Conditions That May Cause Pain in the Jaw
Should you be worried if your jaw hurts? Your anxiety over jaw pain may be warranted if a doctor determines it’s a symptom of an underlying condition.
There are a number of medical conditions that can lead to why you’re experiencing ear and jaw pain right now.
Some examples include: sinus infections, tooth abscesses and even tumors.
If the pain is accompanied by other symptoms like fever or facial swelling, then it’s best to seek help from your doctor as soon as possible.
Other Things to Do for Relief of Pain or Discomfort in the Jaw
In the meantime, here are a few things you can do to help relieve some of the pain or discomfort you may be experiencing:
- RICE: Rest, Ice, Compress & Elevate. Try and rest as much as possible until the pain goes away (this could mean taking a day off from work if it’s really bad). Apply ice packs for about 20 minutes at a time, use a compression bandage to reduce swelling and keep your jaw elevated whenever possible.
- Over-the-counter medications: If the pain is severe enough, then you may want to take over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help ease the discomfort. Just make sure not to exceed the recommended dosage as it could lead to other problems.
- Medications prescribed by your doctor: If you have been diagnosed with a medical condition that causes why you’re experiencing ear and jaw pain, then there may be medications (like antibiotics) and supplements (vitamins or herbal remedies) that can help combat the issue. Your doctor will work closely with you to make sure they prescribe something safe for why you’re experiencing ear and jaw pain.
Things NOT to Do for Relief of Pain or Discomfort in the Jaw
There are a few things you should avoid doing if you’re experiencing pain or discomfort in your jaw:
- Don’t chew on anything hard (like ice) or crunch down on your teeth. This can put a lot of stress on the muscles and joints in your jaw and make the pain worse.
- Don’t grind your teeth at night. This is known as bruxism and it can really wear down the enamel on your teeth over time, leading to more problems down the road. If you think you may be grinding your teeth at night, then there are some things you can do to help stop it (like wearing a mouth guard).
- Don’t try to “pop” or move your jaw around. This can also aggravate the muscles and joints in your jaw. Just let it rest until the pain goes away on its own.
Hopefully, some of these tips will help provide you with relief from your jaw pain.
The bottom line is to see your dentist once the jaw pain unbearable. You can help alleviate some of the discomfort in your jaw in many ways. But if it’s too much, then there’s no substitute for a dental visit with someone who knows what they’re doing.