We never like to be responding to pain. We like to anticipate pain and through a process of wellness help you stay in good health so you never have to experience pain.
However, sometimes we do experience pain and then we have to figure out why and how to treat it. With jaw pain, there are many potential causes. We’re not going to detail jaw trauma–we assume that if you were hit in the jaw recently you remember it, so we’re focusing on other potential causes.
It is rare, but sometimes women experience jaw pain as one of their heart attack symptoms. In this case, the pain will come on suddenly, and may persist for several minutes. It may be accompanied by shortness of breath, a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Most often, women also experience pain and pressure in their chest, but they are more likely to experience these other symptoms.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)
Temporomandibular joint disorder (called TMJ or sometimes TMD) is likely the most common cause of actual jaw pain. (Heart attack and several others on this list are actually pain in other places that is felt in the jaw as referred pain.) In this disorder, jaw dysfunction can cause many different types of pain. The most common is muscle pain, in which the jaw muscles are sore from overwork or imbalanced work. However, the jaw joint itself can be a source of pain, as well as a number of nerves, creating many different types of jaw pain that can be sharp and transitory or dull and lasting.
Arthritis is joint degeneration, where the bones in the joint are wearing away. Arthritis can be related to TMJ, either as a cause or an effect. It also comes in several different forms, such as osteoarthritis, which is a type of wear that normally affects older people, and rheumatoid arthritis, a type of autoimmune disorder that can affect people of any age, and often attacks the jaw joints.
Some diseases can cause jaw pain. These days, the most common are sinus infections and salivary gland infections, which are still pretty rare. Shingles (herpes zoster) can also cause pain near the jaw, but it’s usually surface-level and accompanied by a highly visible rash. Mumps and tetanus–both preventable with vaccines–sometimes manifest with jaw pain.
It’s sometimes hard to tell the exact source of pain. Many people who have toothaches due to cavities or gum disease, feel the discomfort as jaw pain. Other times, they might even feel it like a headache. The good thing is that when you talk to a dentist about your jaw pain, they will perform an exam that will include looking at your teeth to eliminate this as a potential cause.
Neuropathic pain is when pain comes from the nerves themselves. For jaw pain, the one that gets mentioned most often is trigeminal neuralgia. This is a rare cause of pain, but when it occurs, it can cause very serious, sharp, stinging pain that lasts for a long period of time.
Disruption of your blood vessels can lead to pain around the jaw region. The carotid artery can separate inside, causing blood to pool between the layers, which leads to painful pressure. Giant cell arteritis is when the lining of the blood vessels begins to swell, which can cause pain and may obstruct the flow of blood.
Let Us Help You Track Down Jaw Pain
TMJ is the most common cause of jaw pain. After you’ve eliminated an emergency need like heart attack, getting tested for TMJ should be your next step. We can test you for TMJ and either confirm or deny that it’s a cause of your jaw pain.
If TMJ is causing your jaw pain, we can help you get effective, drug-free treatment. To learn more about treating jaw pain in Savannah, GA, please call (912) 234-8282 today for an appointment with a TMJ dentist at The Durham Office.