The sudden onset of pain on one side of the jaw might be problematic but is typically not significant. You may be concerned about dental difficulties such as cavities or abscessed teeth or wonder if you grind your teeth at night.
There are numerous potential causes of unilateral jaw pain. Here, we will discuss some of the most common causes, other symptoms to watch for, and when it may be time to consult a doctor or dentist.
Should I be anxious?
Jaw pain on one side is typically not an emergency. In rare instances, though, it may indicate an impending heart attack. Anyone can encounter this symptom. However, it is more prevalent among women.
In addition to jaw pain, you may also exhibit the following symptoms if you are experiencing a heart attack:
- chest pain or pressure that goes away when you rest but returns repeatedly
- Pain, discomfort, and pressure in the chest and arms can spread to the jaw, neck, back, and abdomen.
- acid reflux or indigestion
- Breathlessness, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain
- extreme weariness
- vertigo and lightheadedness
- sudden chilly sweats
These symptoms may appear suddenly or gradually over several hours or days. If any of the above symptoms accompany your jaw discomfort, you should seek immediate medical attention or have someone take you to the hospital.
Here are the most probable reasons for jaw pain.
Disorders of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) damage the joint connecting the skull and jaw. A disc separates the bones in this joint and facilitates its movement. You could have discomfort and other symptoms on one or both sides of your jaw if the disc gets misplaced or the joint is injured.
Other TMJ dysfunction symptoms include:
- discomfort around the jaw
- discomfort, clicking, or popping during chewing or mouth opening
- Inability to open and close your mouth if the joint is locked.
- Multiple variables can contribute to TMJ issues, making it difficult to pinpoint the precise reason.
- Among the known contributors to TMJ problems are:
- Clenching or grinding one’s teeth
- tissue damage
- dental decay or misalignment
- a dental abscess or damage
- deterioration of the cartilage in the joint
If you have symptoms of a TMJ condition, consult your doctor or dentist to determine the underlying cause.
Sinusitis is caused by inflammation in the nasal cavity. Sinusitis is typically caused by a cold, although allergies and other medical disorders can also play a role.
If the maxillary sinuses behind your cheeks are inflamed, you may experience pain on one or both sides of your jaw.
Other sinusitis symptoms include:
- Nasal congestion makes breathing via the nose difficult.
- The discharge of yellow or green mucus from your nose or throat.
- facial ache, pressure, and enlargement
- pain and pressure in your ears and head, fatigue
- inability to smell or taste
Sinusitis typically resolves on its own within a week, but it may be worthwhile to check in with your healthcare practitioner if symptoms persist for over a week.
3. Dental troubles
Frequently, dental or oral health issues are the cause of jaw discomfort on one side.
Examples of common dental disorders that might cause jaw pain:
- an infected tooth
- development of wisdom teeth
- gingivitis or tooth decay
- Lost or misaligned teeth
- grinding or clenching the teeth
If dental difficulties are to blame, you may also experience the following symptoms:
- Toothache that persists or fluctuates
- Sensitive enamel
- uncomfortable and bleedy gums
- ulcers in the mouth
- poor breath or chronic mouth dryness
- discomfort during chewing or swallowing
Abscess symptoms may include facial swelling, fever, and acute tooth pain. Call your dentist or doctor immediately if you experience these symptoms, particularly if breathing and swallowing become difficult.
These conditions are uncommon, although they can cause jaw pain on one side. If the source of your discomfort is unclear, your healthcare professional may rule out these possibilities.
This persistent disease is commonly caused by improper pressure on the trigeminal nerve. This pressure might inhibit the nerve’s correct function, resulting in excruciating agony. Brain damage or abnormalities might potentially cause the disorder.
Trigeminal neuralgia is most prevalent in women and those over 50 years old. The predominant symptom is typically considerable pain on one side of the face.
This pain may:
- occur when you even minimally touch your face or move your facial muscles
- generate piercing, stabbing, or shock-like feelings
- continuous discomfort or burning pain
- trigger facial twitching
- occur in instances lasting seconds or minutes
- occur in the lower jaw, the cheek, or the mouth
- get more severe as time passes
Frequently, pain is fleeting but intense. It may not react to over-the-counter remedies, but your doctor can offer alternative therapies, including prescription drugs.
Osteomyelitis is a rare but deadly type of bone infection caused by the entry of bacteria into bone.
Your jawbone could become infected during a dental procedure if you have a major dental health condition or if your mouth is harmed. Conditions affecting the immune system can also raise the risk.
This infection may spread and result in bone degeneration. Immediate treatment with antibiotics can help prevent dangerous complications. Thus, it is crucial to get medical attention if you have:
- increasing discomfort in your jaw
- a fever
- swelling or discomfort in the teeth or jaw
- redness or heat at the site of the discomfort
- weariness or fatigue
- poor breath
- difficulty opening and closing your mouth owing to swelling and pain
- tingling in the jaw, lips, or mouth
6.Malignant tumors and cysts
These two forms of growth are distinct. Tumors are tissue lumps, whereas cysts typically contain fluid. Both can induce jaw pain, though both are pretty uncommon.
Typically, they are not malignant but can still affect oral health. They may overgrow, dislodging your teeth and destroying bone and tissue in your jaw and mouth.
These are some of the most frequent tumors and cysts that can damage your mouth:
- dentigerous cysts
In addition to prolonged jaw pain, you may suffer the following symptoms if you have a cyst or tumor:
- white or red spots in the mouth
- exposed or bleeding sores
- a mass or growth that can be felt
- persistent pain or hoarseness in the throat
- difficulty swallowing or moving the jaw
- tissue development surrounding teeth
- jaw or face enlargement
Treatment depends on the nature and source of the growth, but the early discovery and medical intervention might increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome.
Tips for relief
If your jaw discomfort is minimal or transitory, you may not need medical treatment. Generally, if the underlying cause is not severe, the pain will subside after the condition is resolved.
These ways can help you manage it in the interim:
Apply heat. The heat helps to relax muscles and can alleviate soreness and stiffness.
Utilize cold compresses or ice. These can aid in numbing pain and may be especially useful if you also suffer swelling.
Try over-the-counter pain relievers. Temporarily alleviate discomfort with acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), and other over-the-counter pain drugs. Follow the dosing instructions on the packaging carefully. If the suggested dose is ineffective or you need to take pain killers for more than a few days, you should consult a healthcare professional.
If possible, relax your jaw. You can avoid overworking your jaw muscles by selecting foods that require minimal chewing.
Consider massage. A physician, physical therapist, or massage therapist may utilize massage therapy to alleviate jaw discomfort and strain. You can also teach yourself how to apply specific tactics. They may be particularly advantageous for TMJ issues.
Try to unwind. If your jaw pain is caused by teeth grinding or clenching, relaxation techniques can help you avoid utilizing these behaviors as a stress response. Muscle relaxation can also help relieve discomfort.
Attempt a new sleeping position. If you consistently sleep on the same side or with your hand under your jaw, this could cause muscle tension. Changing the side, you sleep on may alleviate your pain. Even if your pain stems from a different source, sleeping on the other side may help alleviate it at night.
When to see a physician
Although jaw discomfort does not always indicate a severe ailment, pain coupled with specific symptoms may indicate a condition requiring treatment.
Consider visiting your healthcare practitioner or dentist if the pain persists for more than a few days or seems to clear up and return.
Here are some further indications that it may be time to consult a medical professional:
- You experience difficulty with eating, drinking, swallowing, and breathing.
- It is tough to move your mouth generally while you are in pain.
- You are suffering from persistent swelling or fever.
- You have extreme pain that disappears abruptly following a blast of salty fluids that tastes and smells foul.
A high fever, intense discomfort, or swelling that interferes with your capacity to breathe and swallow are all dangerous signs requiring immediate treatment.
If you experience jaw discomfort with these symptoms, you should visit urgent care rather than wait for an appointment with your doctor.