Jaw Pain – Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Jaw pain is associated with the temporomandibular joint, therefore it is necessary to understand the anatomy of this joint. If you are experiencing jaw pain, then you need to look for its causes, symptoms, healing cycle, ineffective, and effective treatment options at home. 

Temporomandibular Joint 

Jaw pain is characterized by the pain and uncomfortable feeling in the temporomandibular joint that is formed between the temporal bone and mandibular bone. It is a hinge-type joint that facilitates the upward and downward movement of the jaw for chewing purposes. For this reason, there is a cushion-like soft cartilage tissue (articular disc) in between the two bones forming the joint to prevent friction by the upward and downward movement of the bone at the joint [1]. 

Jaw pain is caused by any type of disorder in the temporomandibular joint, articular disc, or jaw muscles (temporalis and masseter muscles). However, the most overlooked aspect of the jaw is the medial and lateral ptyerygoid muscle that is usually affected by the disorders in the temporomandibular joint because it is directly connected at the joint and goes deep into the jaw during its movement [1, 2].

Causes of Jaw Pain 

The common causes of jaw pain are as follows.

  • Frequent clenching and grinding of teeth are the most common cause of jaw pain because it is a habit of some people to clench or grind teeth while talking, anger, confusion, sleeping, and frustration.  
  • Jaw injuries like falling down facing the face, a punch during the fighting, or something hard is hit at the jaw can be the cause of jaw pain or disorders in the temporomandibular joint. 
  • If a person is diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in which the immune system does not support the healing mechanism at the joint due to which the jaw pain is not healed properly. 
  • Similarly, osteoarthritis also makes it difficult for the body to cope with any jaw injury because of the weakened or brittle temporal and mandibular bone. 
  • Stress due to any reason affects all the body systems and functioning and jaw pain can be triggered due to jaw tightening during the stress.
  • Connective tissue diseases can cause pain in the jaw because any dental issues anomaly or procedures affects the jaw muscles.
  • If a person has any dental conditions such as alignment disorders, dental muscles problems, or dental bones deformation can cause jaw pain. 
  • Dental procedures can also trigger jaw pain especially when the dentist does not consider the jaw pain as a serious issue and continue longer dental procedure without frequent breaks or spit-ups, then jaw pain can last for several days even after the dental procedure [2, 3]. 

Symptoms of Jaw Pain 

  • Pain and tenderness around temporomandibular joint, jaw muscles, and jawline for longer hours. 
  • Ear aching pain or ringing 
  • Some people experience jaw clicking sounds or popping sounds while moving the jaw
  • Headaches and dizziness are caused by jaw pain as it affects the temporal region of the brain.
  • Facial pain is associated with jaw pain because the jaw muscles cover the face.
  • Difficulty in chewing and eating is commonly coupled with jaw pain because the movement of the temporomandibular joint is not supported for chewing and eating due to pain. 
  • Jaw locking is the most severe case of jaw pain in which the mandibular bone is stuck in the articular disc.
  • Most people have trouble opening and closing the mouth because jaw movement becomes a challenging job in jaw pain [3]. 

Healing Cycle of Jaw Pain 

In a normal healing cycle, jaw pain is comprised of three stages including inflammation, proliferation, and maturation. Inflammation is initiated at the jaw when any of the causes mentioned above happen and as soon as the injury is recognized by the blood, the temperature of the jaw is increased, it becomes red and swelled so that the healing cycle can proceed [4]. 

In the proliferation stage, the scar tissue is released to form a mesh-like network to cover the injured or affected jaw area. This scar tissue works like glue that covers and repairs the affected area in the temporomandibular joint. This cascade of events is followed by the trigger point release in which the trigger points inform the fighting mechanism of the body to heal the affected area. The fascia layer release is the last step of the proliferation stage in which the superficial and deep layers (aponeurotic, epimysium, preimysium, and endomysium) are formed that continued to reach the maturation stage of the healing cycle [5, 6]. 

The scar tissue and facia layers are then released in the maturation stage so that the healing cycle is completed. 

However, in chronic healing, this cascade of events does not reach the maturation stage and the cycle remains continued between the inflammation and proliferation stages and causes the jaw pain to be continued for a longer duration and needed to be treated to reach the maturation stage [5]. 

Ineffective Treatments for the Jaw Pain 

As jaw pain is caused by disorders in the temporomandibular joint, not every treatment can be effective. Such as heating and icing of the jaw, electronic stimulation, massage, foam roller, stretching, and strengthening exercises. This is because these treatment interventions may cause excessive tension in the jaw muscles and joints [6].

Effective Treatments for the Jaw Pain 

During the inflammation stage of the jaw pain, the most effective treatment option is the MagnaHeal wearable device that is designed to use a magnetic field around the jaw so that the inflammation stage quickly proceeds to the proliferation stage. Besides this, an anti-inflammatory diet such as berries, olives, fish oil, grapes, broccoli, etc. is effective to reduce inflammation in the jaw. Vier et al also claimed that restoring several deficiencies like vitamin D, B vitamins, and calcium also treat jaw pain at the inflammation stage [6]. 

On the other hand, the treatment for jaw pain at the proliferation stage can be done by using external stimulators such as A3 and A5 for scar tissue release and trigger points release whereas, for superficial and deep fascia release stimulation, A1 and A5 are effective respectively [6]. 

Bottom Line 

Jaw pain should not be overlooked as it can deteriorate health rapidly and you can look to consult for your jaw pain or ask questions at ask ASTR. 

References

  1. Dyer MH. Jaw pain. The Journal of the American Dental Association. 2015 Jan 1;146(1):8.
  2. Wang WE, Roy A, Misra G, Archer DB, Ribeiro-Dasilva MC, Fillingim RB, Coombes SA. Motor-evoked pain increases force variability in chronic jaw pain. The Journal of Pain. 2018 Jun 1;19(6):636-48.
  3. Lindfors E, Magnusson T, Ernberg M. Effect of Therapeutic Jaw Exercises in the Treatment of Masticatory Myofascial Pain: A Randomized Controlled Study. Journal of Oral & Facial Pain & Headache. 2020 Oct 1(4).
  4. Wieckiewicz M, Boening K, Wiland P, Shiau YY, Paradowska-Stolarz A. Reported concepts for the treatment modalities and pain management of temporomandibular disorders. The journal of headache and pain. 2015 Dec;16(1):1-2.
  5. Harper DE, Schrepf A, Clauw DJ. Pain mechanisms and centralized pain in temporomandibular disorders. Journal of dental research. 2016 Sep;95(10):1102-8.
  6. Vier C, de Almeida MB, Neves ML, Dos Santos AR, Bracht MA. The effectiveness of dry needling for patients with orofacial pain associated with temporomandibular dysfunction: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Brazilian journal of physical therapy. 2019 Jan 1;23(1):3-11.