Reasons Why You Might Be Experiencing Jaw Pain

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Woman in pain holding her jaw

Jaw pain is an uncomfortable, throbbing pain that can come on suddenly. It may be in the form of a sharp shooting sensation or a dull ache that just won’t go away. It can be extremely frustrating if you don’t know what’s causing your pain. Here are a few reasons why you might be experiencing jaw pain to help you understand the difference.

Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding is the act of clenching your teeth. It can cause serious damage, and is one of the leading causes of jaw pain. Teeth grinding can happen when you feel stressed, but it typically happens while you’re sleeping, when you’re most unaware of it. If your teeth grinding is left untreated, it can cause further dental problems and more pain in your jaw. The best way to stop teeth grinding is seeking out a professional, practice stress relieving techniques in place of clenching, and wear a mouthguard at night to stop the grinding.

Abscessed Tooth

A dental pulp that has become infected is known as an abscessed tooth. It normally occurs when a cavity has been left untreated for a long period of time. When the infection begins to spread from the root of the tooth, it can also affect any surrounding bone tissues, causing extreme jaw pain. Don’t ignore a cavity, especially when it’s causing you significant pain. See your dentist immediately.

Other Dental Conditions

Gum disease, cavities and other dental conditions can cause jaw pain. Although dental issues don’t directly affect the jaw, the pain can often radiate into the jaw area. People who have gaps in their teeth or rotting, damaged teeth can also experience jaw pain from simple tasks, such as biting or chewing. The best way to stop this type of jaw pain is to improve your dental hygiene and schedule an appointment with your dentist to reduce the risk of developing any further dental problems.


Osteomyelitis is an infection that spreads to your bones through the bloodstream. Osteomyelitis can cause an infection in your jaw, impacting the temporomandibular joint. As a result of the impaction, you can experience jaw pain, fever or chills, and swelling. Luckily, osteomyelitis can be treated with antibiotics or by surgically removing parts of the bone that have died from the infection.

Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ)

Clicking, pain, headaches, tightness, or locking of the jaw – that’s the day in the life of a person with TMJ. TMJ is a disorder that can cause pain in your temporomandibular joint and in the muscles that control your jaw movement. The temporomandibular joint is the joint that connects the jaw to the temporal bones of the skull. The bones that interact in the joint are covered with cartilage and are separated by a small shock-absorbing disk, keeping jaw movement smooth. If this disk erodes or moves out of alignment, cartilage is damaged by arthritis or a blow damages the joint – painful TMJ disorders can occur.

You may be experiencing TMJ if you have pain or tenderness in your jaw, pain in and around your ear, difficulty chewing, facial pain and locking of the joint, making it extremely hard to open or close your mouth. TMJ is also known to cause a clicking sound and grating sensation when you open your mouth or chew.

Physical Therapy for TMJ

While there’s no direct cure for TMJ there are different treatments and TMJ pain relief exercises that may reduce your symptoms, such as physical therapy. Physical therapy can help restore motion and relieve pain in your jaw. It also works to improve your pain level and tolerance for daily activities, such as chewing and talking. At JAG-ONE Physical Therapy, we provide a physical therapy program for symptoms associated with TMJ. We’ll help you relieve your pain with our specialized techniques and get you back the life you love. Call us today at (973) 669-0078 to schedule an appointment at one of our locations!