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No one likes to be in pain. While some of us can deal with a sore back or tired legs, it often seems impossible to ignore pain when it’s in your mouth or head. Along with toothaches and migraines, jaw pain tops the list when it comes to undesirable things to wake up to. Worse still, it can sometimes be difficult to figure out just what caused exactly the ache in your jaw in the first place. To help you get to the bottom of your jaw pain, we’ve laid out a few of the most common causes of an aching jaw, as well as a few steps to deal with the ailment!

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) is the most common cause of jaw pain. It comes from issues with the Temporomandibular joints or the triangular area of muscle connecting your lower jaw to your skull. TMJ can be caused by teeth grinding or clenching (bruxism), an injury to the jaw, an impacted disc, arthritis, or excess stimulation.

Tooth Pain

Toothaches can extend further down into the jaw and become a more throbbing, invasive problem. The most common type of toothache that causes jaw pain is an abscessed tooth, which results from an infection at the root of the tooth. These often develop from untreated cavities, and the pain is typically isolated to one side of the jaw. In these cases, the tooth may need to be treated by draining the infection or performing a root canal. Chipped or broken teeth can also be a cause of jaw pain.


Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone caused by an infection carried through the bloodstream or from an open fracture. Although uncommon in the jaw, it can lead to serious problems if it does manifest here. Caused by several things, from poor oral hygiene to complications from a root canal, symptoms often include jaw pain, stiffness, and swelling. Luckily, osteomyelitis can be treated with antibiotics and/or physical therapy.

Heart Attack

While jaw pain is often not a cause for imminent alarm, it can sometimes be a sign of a much larger issue. Pain in the lower left jaw may be a sign of a heart attack and is commonly seen in women. If your jaw pain is coupled with chest pain, shortness of breath, or pain in your left arm, seek immediate medical attention.

Relieving Minor Pain

For minor jaw aches and pains, relief can be as easy as taking an over-the-counter painkiller or using a hot or cold compress for ten minutes or so. If these treatments don’t do the trick, a gentle face massage can help relieve sore muscles and get you back in shape!

If jaw pain is impacting you, it’s likely disrupting more than just your mealtimes. Chronic pain is a cause of stress and makes your normal routine undeniably more difficult. Fortunately, it’s something that can be managed and alleviated with proper treatment!

If jaw aches are bothering you and at-home remedies haven’t solved the problem, give us a call at Steger Smiles today to schedule your jaw pain consultation!

Be proud of your smile.