What is jaw pain?

Jaw pain is any kind of pain or discomfort in the jaw area, which includes the lower jaw (mandible, often referred to as the jaw bone), temporomandibular joint (TMJ or jaw joint), and surrounding soft tissues. The temporomandibular joint connects the lower jaw to the temporal bone of the skull and is responsible for bringing the lower and upper jaws together. It is one of the most frequently used joints in the body.

Depending on the underlying cause, jaw pain can occur suddenly or build up over time. You may feel a dull ache, or it may be so painful that you can’t open your mouth to eat. Jaw pain may be triggered by various activities, such as eating, swallowing or merely touching the jaw area, as is the case with trigeminal neuralgia.

One of the most common reasons for jaw pain is stress to the temporomandibular joint, leading to temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD. The temporomandibular joint is immediately in front of the ear on each side of your head. Muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other soft tissues surround the joint. TMD can be caused by wear and tear, injury, or disease of the joint and surrounding soft tissue.

Jaw pain can also be a sign of various other diseases, disorders and conditions. Relatively mild conditions, such as teeth grinding, can cause jaw pain. More serious conditions include rheumatoid arthritis, infection, and neuralgia. Jaw pain is also considered one of the hallmark warning signs of a heart attack.

If you are experiencing jaw pain in conjunction with chest pain or pain that radiates to your arm and shoulder, sweating, or shortness of breath, you may be having a heart attack. This is an immediately life-threatening medical emergency. Seek immediate medical care (call 911).

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with jaw pain?

Jaw pain may be accompanied by other symptoms, depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Body systems that are seemingly unrelated to the jaw area can also be affected. For example, you may have a fever if the jaw pain is due to an infection or inflammatory process.

Symptoms tha... Read more about jaw painsymptoms

CAUSES

What causes jaw pain?

Jaw pain is a symptom of a variety of different diseases, disorders and conditions. If you experience pain on one or both sides of your head in front of your ears, you may have temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). TMD is characterized by pain, tenderness, and trouble opening your mouth. TMD can be caused by behaviors, such as teeth grinding, improperly aligned teeth or bite, and age-related ... Read more about jaw paincauses

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 2, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Mouth, Teeth and Oral Health, Heart Attack, Angina, Sinusitis