Millions of Americans suffer from jaw pain — which is unsurprising, considering how many different things can cause it. Jaw pain is a common symptom that could stem from a wide variety of sources. But even though some jaw pain is harmless, it’s important to take the symptoms seriously, because they could be indicative of a much larger problem.

woman talking on her cell phone after getting into a car accident

Potential Sources of Jaw Pain

There are lots of ways to experience jaw pain. Some people experience that pain constantly, while others may experience only when chewing, or talking. Here are a few reasons your jaw might be hurting or sore.

  • Trauma — One fairly obvious source of jaw pain is trauma to the jaw. A car accident, a fall, or any sort of blow to the face could damage the joint structures of your jaw, resulting in pain, soreness, or swelling. Your jaw could even be broken or dislocated, which could require surgery, antibiotics, or other medical attention. Even a trauma like whiplash, in which the jaw is not directly impacted, could result in damage to the jaw.
  • Clenching or grinding teeth — Bruxism , or the clenching and grinding of teeth, creates tension in the jaw that can lead to soreness and pain. It can happen during the day or while you are asleep, and can damage your teeth over time, or even lead to TMJ.
  • Misaligned bite — You may have developed a bad bite on your own, or dental work that was performed improperly could have altered the alignment of your bite. Either way, a misaligned bite can cause pain or discomfort if it isn’t treated.
  • Stress — Stress can lead to tension all over the body, resulting in symptoms from back pain to headaches to jaw pain. Stress-related tension can even stay in your body while you sleep, doing damage all night long.
  • Lack of sleep — If you aren’t sleeping well, your body isn’t getting the chance to relax your muscles overnight. This can cause muscle tension from the previous day to carry over to the next one, compoundings its effects.
  • Excessive estrogen — Some scientists have theorized that high estrogen levels may be tied to a host of oral health problems, including jaw pain. Any major hormonal changes, such as puberty, pregnancy, or menopause, might make women more susceptible to such symptoms.
  • Infection in the joint — Although infection of the temporomandibular joint is very rare , if untreated, it could cause jaw pain to worsen or result in further complications. An infection of the join could require surgical intervention to cure.

Don’t Take Jaw Pain Lightly

Even if TMJ is not the cause of your jaw pain, many causes of jaw pain can lead to TMJ if untreated. There are steps you can take to prevent your jaw pain from developing into TMJ, and Dr. Adam Hahn can evaluate your situation and help you keep your jaw as healthy as possible.

You can treat jaw pain to some degree at home (such as with heat application), but you should also make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible. Consulting with a professional can prevent further damage to your jaw and teeth. Call (803) 781-9090 or contact Smile Columbia Dentistry online today to get to the bottom of your jaw pain troubles.