Pain in Lower Jaw: Causes and Treatments

Your jaw consists of two bones: the upper jaw known as maxilla and the lower jaw or mandible. Most of us have experienced jaw pain so this condition is not uncommon. Lower jaw pain which can be chronic or acute is caused by many possible conditions. It does not always mean that it is caused by the problem in the bone itself, sometimes it can emanate from the teeth and gum, salivary glands, the jaw muscles, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and even from the heart. Visit your doctor to know the exact cause of the problem and to get the best pain-relieving treatments.

What Causes Lower Jaw Pain?

1. Fractured Jaw

One of the most severe causes of jaw pain is a broken jaw which occurs during assaults, motor vehicle accidents, falls, sporting injuries and other injuries to the face. The fracture’s nature may vary just like with other bones in the body. Men are three times more likely to have their lower jaw fractured compared to women.

Symptoms:

  • Bruising and facial swelling
  • Immense pain that gets worsened when you move your jaw(eating, talking or moving your mouth)
  • Limited jaw movement
  • Bleeding from inside the mouth or from the skin
  • Face around the fracture is deformed
  • Tenderness at the fracture’s site

2.  Dislocated Jaw

You will get a dislocated jaw when your lower jaw slips out of place at the temporomandibular jaw. This usually occurs when there is a significant impact to your face, though it can also be caused by chronic joint problems. You would need medical treatment to restore the joint to its normal position though sometimes it will slip back into its normal position without any treatment.

Symptoms:

  • Lower jaw pain which gets worsened when you move your mouth or body
  • Your bite feels strange and your teeth don’t line up as they usually do
  • Your jaw looks like it juts out too much
  • Difficulty in speaking
  • Having problem completely closing your mouth

3. Tooth problems

One of the more common causes of jaw pain is tooth decay. This condition happens when the hard outer enamel layer of your tooth wears down, resulting to a formation of cavity where bacteria and food may become trapped. Though the pain can become intense overnight, tooth problems arise gradually in most cases.

Symptoms:

  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Toothache
  • Visible pits or holes in your teeth
  • Mild to sharp pain when drinking hot or cold or eating something sweet
  • Pain when you bite down
  • Black, brown or white staining on any surface of your tooth

4. Impacted tooth  

Another tooth-related cause of jaw pain is an impacted wisdom tooth. An impacted tooth is a tooth that gets blocked as it’s pushing through the gum into your mouth. Wisdom tooth, which usually begins to come in between ages of 17 and 21, are often impacted.

Symptoms:

  • Redness, pain and swelling of the gums
  • Facial and jaw swelling on the affected side
  • Having problem opening your jaw
  • Pain when you open your mouth, bite or chew
  • A bad taste in your mouth
  • Bad breath

5. Dental abscess  

Tooth or dental abscess occurs when there is a buildup of pus that forms inside your gums or teeth and is often caused by a bacterial infection.

Symptoms:

  • Sensitivity to hot or cold food and liquids
  • Lower jaw pain and pain in the affected area, especially when you bite or touch the affected area
  • Fever
  • Difficulty in opening your mouth and swallowing
  • Feeling unwell generally
  • Insomnia
  • A foul taste in the mouth

6. Angina or Heart Attack  

Heart attack occurs when there is a restriction in the blood flow to your heart, often caused by a clot in an artery. Your heart muscle gets damaged and can even die without oxygen.

Symptoms:

  • Difficulty  breathing
  • Central chest pain that’s often radiated to the left side
  • Dizziness and loss of consciousness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Vomiting and nausea

7. Other causes

  • Ear problems
  • Fibrous dysplasia of the lower jaw
  • Salivary gland problems such as parotitis
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems like synovitis or arthritis
  • Jaw muscle problems

How to Relieve Lower Jaw Pain?

1. Immediate relief

  • Applying ice packs or moist heat – apply ice packs to your face for 10 minutes, then take it off for 10 minutes and apply it again. You can also get pain relief and relax your jaw muscles by applying a warm washcloth to your jaw area.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers – reduce the discomfort of pain in the lower jaw by taking medicines like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Massage the affected joint – press the sore areas of your jaw using your index and middle finger. Rub in circular motion for 5 to 10 rotations, then open your mouth and repeat the process. 

2. Medical help  

Your doctor will initially suggest non-invasive treatment methods for your pain. You may be asked to wear a mouthguard during bedtime to stop you from grinding your teeth unconsciously when you sleep. Your doctor may also prescribe muscle relaxers for the pain. When these methods don’t work, more invasive treatment such as botox injections and even jaw surgery may be recommended. Botox keeps your jaw muscles from clenching which relieves pain caused by TMD, while jaw surgery is recommended for people with severe pain and pain caused by the structural problems in the jaw joint.

3. Lifestyle changes

Reduce your habit of jaw clenching by practicing stress-relieving techniques such as meditation and yoga. Avoid foods that are tough, chewy or crunchy as they strain your jaw joint, which leads to discomfort and pain later. By limiting your coffee and tea consumption, you’re reducing your jaw pain over time, however, you may initially experience muscle tension if you’re totally withdrawing caffeine from your diet. 

 
 
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