Jaw pain: where does jaw pain come from?
Image by stefamerpik on Freepik

Jaw pain is a common symptom that can be caused by various diseases. It is usually not serious and can improve with simple treatments. However, it is not to be neglected, at the risk of seeing its jaw block and making feeding difficult.

Description of jaw pain

Depending on its origin, the jaw pain can appear suddenly with intense pain or, on the contrary, settle in the long term and manifest itself by diffusing discomfort in the jaw. In some cases, the discomfort or pain may be localized specifically at the joint.

Recall that in humans, the jaw is composed of two bones, the maxillary bone, at the top and the mandible, at the bottom. The latter is connected to the skull by the temporomandibular joint. It is this joint that gives it its mobility and can also be the cause of pain.

Many other symptoms can be associated with jaw pain, such as:

  • swelling of the jaw or face
  • pain in the face, ears, neck, and sometimes up to the shoulders
  • headache (headache)
  • difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • swelling of the gums or lymph nodes in the neck

Causes of jaw pain

The causes of jaw pain are very diverse. Among the most common, we can mention the so-called “biomechanical” causes, that is to say, that they affect the bones, ligaments, or muscles of the jaw:

  • fractures;
  • dislocation, also called jaw dislocation;
  • dental malocclusion (that is when the upper and lower teeth do not fit properly)
  • osteoarthritis in the jaw joint;
  • rheumatoid arthritis;
  • algo-dysfunctional syndrome of the manducatory apparatus (or SADAM), which affects the joint between the mandible and one of the bones of the skull (the temporal bone).

Some cancers can develop in the jaw. Depending on the tissue from which they develop, different types are distinguished:

  • osteosarcoma, which develops from bone cells
  • chondrosarcoma, which develops from cartilage cells;
  • fibrosarcoma, which is made up of fibrous tissue;
  • ostontogenic sarcoma and carcinoma, which is exceptionally rare dental tumors.

Stress or anxiety are also common causes of jaw pain, as they will lead to muscle clenching, or teeth grinding (bruxism). This unconscious behavior can take place during the day or during sleep. In the latter case, it is more serious, because totally uncontrollable.

Rarely, severe pain in the jaw may indicate maxillary osteonecrosis, i.e. the destruction of bone as a result of a lack of blood flow.

Evolution and possible complications of jaw pain

The prospects for the evolution of jaw pain depend on the underlying causes of the pain. But the main risk, if this symptom is neglected, is to have the jaw blocked and not be able to eat. There is also a risk that the disease that causes it will worsen and become more difficult to treat. It is therefore important to consult a doctor to obtain a diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Treatment and prevention: what solutions?

Treatment of jaw pain will depend on the disease causing it. Often, it is possible to momentarily relieve jaw pain by taking over-the-counter painkillers or applying ice to the area for a few minutes. It is also recommended to prefer foods that are easy to chew (yogurt, mashed potatoes, soup, or scrambled eggs) and avoid excessive jaw movements, such as large yawns, or chewing gum.

When stress is causing jaw pain, several options are possible: do yoga, meditation, relaxation, or any activity that can promote relaxation. Wearing a small brace (occlusal plate) at night may also be considered to help relieve pain during nocturnal bruxism.

If pain and other symptoms persist, it is recommended to contact a doctor. The doctor will be able to perform a thorough medical examination to determine the exact cause of the pain and adapt the treatment.

Image Credit: Image by stefamerpik on Freepik

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