Dental FAQs

What does it mean if I have jaw pain?

Greensboro Jaw Pain Explanation
Let's get the scary stuff out of the way first: If you are experiencing severe jaw pain that has come on suddenly, especially if it's accompanied by shortness of breath, dizziness, and/or nausea, you may be having a heart attack: call 9-1-1 immediately!

Now, rest assured, in most cases, jaw pain is not cause for a visit to the emergency room. Certainly, there are serious causes of jaw pain that do indicate significant health concerns. However, most jaw pain is caused by something that is minor and relatively easily addressed.

Let's start with the most common causes of jaw pain:
  • Known to dentists as "bruxism," tooth grinding and clenching is a frequent cause of jaw, face, and even ear pain. Bruxism is most often caused by stress or anger, or problems with alignment of teeth. People who have health conditions such as sleep apnea, Parkinson's disease, or Huntington's disease may suffer more from bruxism.
  • TMJ disorders (which include bruxism) are problems with the muscles in the jaw or with parts of the temporomandibular joint. They are a frequent cause of jaw pain.
  • Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis both can cause jaw pain because they cause degeneration of cartilage and bones at joints, and in the worst cases, fusion of the jaw joint.
  • Improper bite due to injury, missing teeth, or impacted wisdom teeth can cause significant jaw pain. Anything that's causing the teeth not to align properly when you close your jaws together, bite, or chew can result in jaw pain if not remedied.
There are a few other serious health concerns that may cause jaw pain — jaw cancer and tetanus (also known as "lockjaw") — so it is important to let us check out your teeth, gums, and jaw bones and joints if you're experiencing severe or ongoing pain or discomfort that seems to be coming from your jaw.

Remember a toothache can be a serious issue. Call our office as soon as possible to have it checked out and to determine what the best treatment for you is. Prevention is always the best, so routine visits and x rays can prevent many problems before they become painful.

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visit our TMJ Syndrome page for more information
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