Few things are as frustrating as jaw pain. Even relatively minor jaw pain can be so distracting that it throws off your entire day. Worst of all, jaw pain can seem like it comes out of nowhere! Everyone’s had one of those days where they wake up and feel their jaw throbbing immediately. It’s not much fun to wake up to.
Despite how it seems, however, jaw pain never really comes from nowhere. There’s always an explanation. Here are four of the most common reasons why you might be suffering from jaw pain right now, and what to do about them.
Bruxism is when a person grinds their teeth for non-chewing purposes. Many people have bruxism and don’t know it, because they grind their teeth while they sleep. Others may subconsciously clench or grind their teeth during the day while they’re concentrating on something else. Bruxism is a relatively common condition. Doctors aren’t totally sure what causes it, but it’s typically associated with stress and anxiety. Sometimes it may start as a bad habit that becomes second nature.
Bruxism hurts your jaw by overworking it. Your muscles have to stay tensed as long as you’re grinding your teeth. When they never get the chance to rest (even at night), they tire out. Bruxism can make your jaw feel sore, tired, or tight. If your bruxism gets severe enough, you may find it difficult to fully extend or move your jaw. Bruxism can also seriously damage your teeth, so if you think you have it you should tell your dentist ASAP.
Lots of people put their jaws under a lot of stress all day, without even realizing it. There are all kinds of ways you can accidentally stress out your jaw. Pay attention to what you do with your mouth and jaw all day. If you sit down for long periods of time, do you rest your hand on the side of your face? Do you chew gum or snack on a nearly constant basis? Do you clench or flex your jaw without thinking about it?
Putting too much pressure or stress on your jaw will tire it out. Your jaw isn’t meant to handle a greater share of weight than your mouth. If you apply your weight to it or work it constantly, your muscles will tire out and feel sore and your jaw joint (TMJ) can get uncomfortable. If you notice jaw pain, try to figure out if it could be coming from anything you’re doing during the day.
Gingivitis is a common and minor form of gum disease that happens when plaque irritates the gum line. Gingivitis irritates your gums, making them sore, sensitive, and swollen. If you have gingivitis, expect some level of gum discomfort until the inflammation and swelling dies down. If the pain in your jaw started suddenly and feels localized to one side of your mouth, check your gum line first.
Gingivitis itself isn’t a terribly serious disease, but it can easily progress into something much worse. Untreated gingivitis can progress into more advanced gum disease, infections, and even movement of the teeth. It can also spread its bacteria throughout the mouth, which will lead to more widespread inflammation and gum pain.
Good dental hygiene can treat early gingivitis effectively. Brush your teeth twice a day and floss before bed, and you should notice the swelling disappear in around a week or two. If that doesn’t work, go to see your dentist for a professional cleaning.
Yes, in addition to all the other trouble they cause, cavities hurt your jaw too. Cavities that affect the nerve can cause swelling at the tip of the root that pushes your tooth upward and throws off your jaw’s bite. If the cavity hurts when you apply pressure to it, you might be subconsciously avoiding that tooth when you chew. Chewing to avoid certain parts of your mouth can overwork other parts of your mouth, which can also cause jaw pain.
Jaw pain caused by cavities will usually be fairly localized, like gingivitis. Unfortunately, however, there’s no way for a patient to “treat” a cavity once it’s there except to visit the dentist. Cavities get worse the longer they go untreated, so we recommend scheduling an appointment as soon as you think you have one. Jaw pain can actually be a good early indicator of a cavity. When your jaw starts hurting, keep a close eye out for tooth pain and other signs of a cavity. If you notice them, see your dentist soon to avoid complications.
Just like most other kinds of pain, jaw pain doesn’t tend to go away on its own. If you have jaw pain from any of these common causes, you need to do something about it.
If you can’t solve your jaw pain by yourself, feel free to call ImmediaDent any time. We can help with any of the problems listed here, and just about anything else that could be causing your jaw pain, too.