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

Jaw pain can be a sign of a dental issue such as a toothache, TMJ Disorder, or a more serious condition. Here, our Toronto dentists explain common causes of jaw pain and what to do with those sore joints.

Why does my jaw hurt?

Jaw pain can indicate a dental issue such as a toothache, TMJ Disorder, or perhaps a more serious 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 occur when there are problems with the muscles in your face and jaw. If the disorder progresses and you begin to feel pain in this area, it can eventually lead to the inability to move the joint.

Causes of TMJ Disorders can include:

  • Certain conditions or illnesses such as arthritis
  • Inflammation in the muscles surrounding your jaw
  • Misalignment of the jaw
  • Injury to the jaw

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder may include:

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

If you have concerns about your TMJ, it's important to visit your dentist. They can provide recommendations for treatment or exercises to help address the issue. In some cases, prescription medications or surgical intervention may be necessary.


While childhood vaccines have successfully eradicated many diseases, there is still a possibility of contracting illnesses that can lead to jaw pain and other symptoms.

Tetanus is a bacterial infection that can cause stiffness or tightness in the jaw muscles. This severe condition may require weeks of hospitalization.


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

If you are experiencing persistent pain, tooth loss, or difficulties with chewing, opening, or closing your mouth due to an injury, it may be necessary to consult your dentist. Over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen can provide temporary relief, and your dentist can provide appropriate dental treatment if needed.

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

It is important to address these issues promptly, especially when dealing with fractured teeth, as they are considered dental emergencies. Therefore, it is advisable to seek immediate dental attention. In the meantime, maintain good oral hygiene by keeping the affected tooth clean and consider rinsing your mouth with warm water.

Cysts or Tumors

Not typically cancerous, odontogenic cysts or tumors can quickly begin to impact your teeth. Surgery may be required to remove them.

Cluster Headaches

One of the most painful types of headache, cluster headaches can result in pain around or behind one eye, with pain radiating to reach the jaw.


Anaerobic osteomyelitis is an infection that affects the bone, specifically the lower jaw (mandible). If left untreated, this condition can disrupt the blood supply to the jaw and cause damage to the bone tissue.

How can I get rid of jaw pain?

At-Home Care

  • Apply a warm, wet washcloth or ice pack covered in cloth to your jaw (10 minutes on, 10 minutes off)
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as 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.
  • Avoid caffeine (which can potentially contribute to muscle tension)

Dental Care

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

At Kerhoulas Dental, 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. 

If you are experiencing jaw pain contact our Toronto dentists to book an appointment today.

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Looking for a dentist in Toronto? We're delighted to welcome new patients at our dental clinic! Contact us to get started today. 

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