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Jaw pain on one side

Jan 10, 2023Oral health

Jaw pain on one side

Experiencing jaw pain on one side of your face can be unpleasant, however, it is usually nothing to be overly concerned about. It is important to identify the potential causes and to seek medical attention if necessary.

Sudden pain on one side of the jaw can be concerning; however, it is generally not considered a serious concern. If accompanied by chest pain, it could be an indication of a potential heart attack. Other potential causes of jaw pain may include toothache, an abscess, or sinusitis. Possible causes of the pain could include dental issues such as a cavity or abscessed tooth, or bruxism (teeth grinding).

What is jaw pain?

An injury to your jaw can indicate anything from a simple toothache to a severe heart attack. A pair of joints known as the temporomandibular joints, or TMJs, allow you to open and close your mouth, but your jawbone, also known as the mandible, connects to your skull at a pair of joints. These joints are located right before your ears, and they are responsible for opening and closing your mouth.

The jaw is responsible for supporting the teeth and gums, which can be sensitive to changes in temperature, pressure, or even infection if proper oral hygiene is not maintained.

Why Does My Jaw Hurt on One Side?

Jaw pain on one side of the mouth can have several potential underlying causes. These include nerve problems, injuries, and blood vessel issues. In some cases, the cause can be attributed to a dental problem, such as an abscessed tooth or dental cavity.

Generally, one-sided jaw pain is not a cause for alarm; however, if the pain is accompanied by additional symptoms, it is recommended that you contact your healthcare provider.

What Causes Jaw Pain?

TMJ disorders
Approximately one in eight individuals may experience a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, with females being more likely than males to develop the condition. TMJ disorders are among the most common causes of jaw pain. The potential causes of Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders can include:

  • Jaw injury
  • Certain illnesses or conditions, like arthritis
  • Grinding or clenching your teeth
  • Your jaw may not be in proper alignment.
  • Inflammation in the muscles around your jaw

There is also a possibility that stress can worsen it. A TMJ disorder can be characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Clicking sound when you open your mouth
  • In the area of your ears, face, or jaw, you may experience pain or ache
  • Constant headaches
  • Hearing ringing in your ears
  • Dizziness
  • Vision problems
  • Patients may experience pain or difficulty when chewing.
  • Locking of your jaw

The first thing you need to do if you think you might have a TMJ problem is to get it checked out by a doctor or dentist. Your doctor may prescribe over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Besides the fact that they may recommend you exercise your jaw muscles to strengthen them, you may also need to stop chewing gum and biting your nails. They may also recommend you get a plastic bite guard so that you won’t grind your teeth if you get a bite guard. It may be necessary to take prescription medications or to undergo surgery in order to resolve the problem.

A forceful impact to the jaw can cause it to become dislocated or even fracture. Possible consequences of such a trauma include:

  • Bruises
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Loose or knocked-out teeth

It is most likely that you will be able to ease your discomfort during your healing process by taking over-the-counter pain medication or eating soft foods. In the event you continue to experience pain, or cannot open and close your mouth properly, you will need medical attention. Overbite and jaw pain can sometimes be caused by dental alignment issues. Find out more about the different treatment options available for an overbite and jaw pain here.

Dental problems
Issues with your teeth may result in jaw pain. Potential causes of this include:

  • A toothache may be caused by a cavity or abscess.
  • Patients may experience cracked, crowded or sensitive teeth that are prone to temperature or pressure changes.
  • Gum disease has the potential to cause harm to the jawbone structure.
  • Wisdom teeth coming in
  • Misaligned teeth
  • Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw.

It is highly recommended that you visit a dentist as soon as possible for any issues you may be having.

Joint problems
In case you are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, your temporomandibular joints may be affected by this condition. Your body is mistakenly attacking healthy tissue when it suffers from this autoimmune disease. As a result, you may experience stiffness and soreness in your jaw, which may result in damage to the soft, spongy cartilage that keeps your jaw moving smoothly.

Vaccines have greatly reduced the prevalence of many diseases, yet there are still cases where individuals contract these conditions and may experience jaw pain as a symptom.

  • Mumps: You may contract a virus that causes the salivary glands on the sides of your mouth to swell, resulting in pain and difficulty when trying to move your jaw.
  • Tetanus: Individuals may acquire a bacterial infection through an open wound such as a cut or scratch on the skin. An early symptom of this illness is tightness or stiffness in the jaw muscles, known as spasms or lockjaw. This serious ailment has the potential to necessitate hospitalization for several weeks.

Heart attack
It is important to note that jaw pain can sometimes be an indicator of a heart attack. Referred pain, which occurs when pain originating at a certain cluster of nerves is felt elsewhere in the body, may cause jaw pain as the only symptom of a heart attack in some individuals. Pain in the jaw may be indicative of joint issues in other parts of the body, such as the shoulders or lower back.

Sinus problems
When your sinuses remain swollen and inflamed for more than 3 months, even after treatment, you may have a condition called chronic sinusitis if they remain swollen and inflamed. Chronic sinusitis can cause aching in your upper jaw in addition to making it difficult to breathe through your nose and making the area around your eyes feel tender, but it can also cause pain in your upper ear.

Trigeminal neuralgia
Whenever a blood vessel presses against the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for transmitting messages from the face to the brain, this painful condition can occur. A person who suffers from trigeminal neuralgia usually experiences a stabbing pain or a jolt of electricity on one side of their jaw or cheeks. They can also develop this condition as a result of multiple sclerosis. As a result of the pain, you may not be able to eat or drink for a long period of time.

Cluster headaches
A cluster headache is a very painful headache that occurs in a specific pattern or occurs frequently in a short amount of time. These headaches cause severe pain and often wake you up during the night as they cause serious pain on one side of your head. Cluster headaches usually affect your eyes and temples, but they can also affect your jaw.

Anaerobic osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone that can affect the lower jaw (or mandible). If left untreated, this condition may reduce or block off the blood supply to the jaw, resulting in permanent damage to the affected bone tissue.

Tumors or cysts
Odontogenic tumors and cysts are benign growths found in the jawbone or soft tissues of the mouth and face. Although they mostly do not present as cancerous, they have the potential to grow rapidly and damage adjacent teeth. Generally, surgical removal is recommended for their elimination.

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