Maryland Dental Arts


6 Common Causes of Jaw Pain & How to Treat Them

6 Common Causes of Jaw Pain & How to Treat Them

6 Common Causes of Jaw Pain & How to Treat Them

Having pain in your jaw can be debilitating. You change your diet to soft foods because chewing hurts, headaches are a daily occurrence, and you feel as if you can’t talk properly because your jaw is just so sore.

Finding and correcting the cause of your jaw pain isn’t always so cut and dried. Unless you can track your pain to a specific injury, you may not know why your jaw hurts or how to help it.

Here are 6 common causes of jaw pain to look out for, and how to correct them:


If you’re stressed, you may find yourself gritting or grinding your teeth more often, especially in your sleep. This puts extra pressure and stress on your jaw, leading to pain and stiffness. If you’re someone who bites your nails, chews on pencils or pens, or chews gum or ice when you’re stressed, this increase in jaw activity could also be causing your jaw pain.

Although it’s easier said than done, relieving your stress is the best way to alleviate your stress-related jaw pain. Meditate, go for a walk, or take a day off if you can. If you grind your teeth or chew on pens while you’re awake, try to be aware of these habits and stop them when you notice them. For the nighttime teeth-grinders, getting a bite guard or mouthguard to wear while you sleep can keep you from doing further damage.

Untreated Cavities

Cavities – holes in your teeth caused by decay – can be painful in a variety of ways. There’s the sensitivity to heat and cold, the pain when you chew food, and even jaw pain.

If you have a cavity you’ve left untreated, either because you don’t realize you have a cavity or you just haven’t made the time to get it filled, you could be causing yourself jaw pain. When your cavity deteriorates your tooth way down into the pulp of your tooth, or even into the nerves beneath your tooth, the pain can radiate throughout your jaw.

Get the cavity looked at and taken care of as quickly as possible to alleviate the jaw pain you’re feeling. Sometimes, this fix is as simple as filling the cavity, but a tooth that’s in an advanced state could require a root canal or even extraction.

6 Common Causes of Jaw Pain & How to Treat Them

Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth, or your third set of molars, are not necessary to the function of your jaw. Not everyone grows wisdom teeth, but usually they crop up in your late teens or early 20s if you’re going to get them. If your mouth is small enough that the teeth don’t have the ability to break through your gums properly, they can grow in sideways, also known as impaction.

Impacted wisdom teeth can cause pressure on the rest of your teeth, leading to jaw pain. Seeing your dentist for an exam and a full set of X-rays to determine if impacted wisdom teeth is the cause of your pain is the first step to relieving your jaw pain. If your dentist finds that you do have impacted wisdom teeth, surgery to remove them likely will be recommended.

Sinus Pressure

You know that feeling: Your head feels floaty and tight, and the pressure on your sinuses is unbearable. Whether it’s from allergies, a sinus infection, or just a head cold, sinus pressure can take you down for the count quickly. But did you know that it can also lead to severe jaw pain?

Your sinus cavities extend throughout your skull, including right behind your jaw. Any pain or pressure in your sinuses, then, can lead to radiating pain in your jaw and extra discomfort for you. The best way to help sinus pressure-related jaw pain is to treat the cause of your sinus pressure. Adding in a nasal spray also can help.

Gum Disease

Gum disease, which is an infection of the gums and tissues surrounding your teeth, can be caused by a variety of conditions. Poor oral health, aging, hormone changes, diabetes, and smoking all can lead to inflammation and pain in your gums. Though gum disease itself will not cause jaw pain, the pain you experience as a result of gum disease can radiate throughout your jaw and cause soreness.

Taking care of the root cause of the gum disease and reducing the inflammation is the key to relieving jaw pain related to gum disease. See your dentist for a through exam and cleaning, and antibiotics or other treatments may be recommended.


Temporomandibular joint disorder – also known as TMD or TMJ – is a disorder of the joints and muscles that surround and support the jaw. It can cause pain, stiffness, and difficulty chewing or speaking. You also can experience a locked jaw, cracking when you open your mouth, or have swelling on one side of your face. Pain from TMJ can radiate past your jaw and into your neck, shoulders, ear, and face.

The first step to treating TMD is getting a proper diagnosis from your dentist. X-rays and an exam should help determine whether TMD is the cause of your jaw pain, and will help your dentist recommend treatment. Possible treatments include medications, nighttime bite guards, and other oral fixes to correct your bite and alleviate pressure on the jaw.


Experienced Dentists in Washington, D.C.

If you suffer from nagging jaw pain, trust the skilled dental team at L’Enfant Plaza Dental Arts in Washington, D.C., to get to the bottom of your pain and recommend a treatment that will work. Schedule your appointment today!

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