What Could Be Causing Your Jaw Pain?

If you are experiencing jaw pain, you might be tempted to dismiss it. You might think, Doesn’t everybody get little aches and pains sometimes? That may be true, but there are good reasons to pay attention to your jaw pain. There are many potentially serious causes of jaw pain. Here are some that you should pay attention to.

What Could Be Causing Your Jaw Pain?

Heart Attack

Let’s get this one out of the way first. It’s the biggest cause for concern, but also one of the rarest. Why does heart attack cause jaw pain? It’s a phenomenon known as referred pain, where your brain confuses the source of pain, and attributes it to other regions than where it truly started. Pain signals aren’t like telephone calls where one specific nerve in the heart calls another nerve in the brain. They’re more like a series of channels where water is flowing. The pain signals are like dye put in the water, and the brain has to guess where it came from. Usually the interpretation is good, but sometimes it’s mistaken.

Jaw pain associated with a heart attack is likely to be diffuse. There’s no specific part of your jaw that’s hurting (partly because your jaw isn’t hurting at all!). Also watch for other associated symptoms, such as being flushed or developing dizziness and confusion.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ or TMD)

TMJ is probably the most common cause of jaw pain, because it’s a diverse category of related jaw conditions that can cause many types of jaw pain. Most often, the pain is in the muscles, which are tense, tender, and sore. Sometimes jaw pain may be felt in the bone, especially if you are clenching or grinding teeth. However, the jaw pain may also be felt in the joint itself. Finally, jaw pain related to TMJ may be nerve pain, which can be sharp and electric. You may also experience intermittent numbness related to your jaw pain.

But the easiest way to identify TMJ is by its other symptoms. TMJ can cause many symptoms, so you likely have it if you experience one or more of the following:

  • Jaw popping or clicking
  • Irregular jaw motion
  • Teeth clenching and grinding
  • Teeth wear and damage
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Ear pain and fullness
  • Vertigo or dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Upper back pain
  • Tingling or numbness in the fingers

If you do suspect TMJ, a neuromuscular dentist is your best choice for treatment.

Dental Problems

Sometimes dental problems might be felt in the jawbone rather than in the teeth. In particular, serious gum disease can attack your jawbone, causing jaw pain.

An infected tooth might also cause jaw pain. Although the infection is in the tooth, the nerves run through the jaw and the body might be confused about the source of pain. Other times, the pain is felt in the roots of the teeth, which are submerged in the jawbone.

Symptoms that can clue you into dental problems include:

  • Chronic bad breath
  • Red, swollen, or bleeding gums
  • Receding gums
  • Discolored tooth

If you have these symptoms as well as jaw pain, it’s a good idea to contact your dentist.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system attacks your joints. The temporomandibular joint is one of the most commonly attacked joints, which can cause your jaw joint pain.

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, the joint is likely to feel swift and sore. It’s also likely that this isn’t the only joint that’s affected. If you start to have the problem with other joints, it’s likely you need to be examined for rheumatoid arthritis.


Osteomyelitis is a blood-borne infection that can attack your bones and joints. This attacks your jaw joint, but that’s rarely the only place it attacks. If your jaw swells up and you develop a fever as well as jaw pain, then this is a likely cause of your discomfort.

Let Us Diagnose Your Jaw Pain in Tulsa

If you are experiencing jaw pain in Tulsa, TMJ dentist Dr. Meghan Hodges at élan can help provide a scientific diagnosis for your condition so you can get treatment that matches your needs.

Please call (918) 528-3330 today for an evaluation of your jaw pain.

By |October 4th, 2018|Gum Disease, Root Canal, TMJ|