Is Jaw Pain Tooth Related

When the temporomandibular joint, TMJ, becomes irritated and inflamed, is most often the result of an underlying issue. TMJ symptoms often result from arthritis or simply grinding your teeth. The TMJ is a joint in the jaw that connects the lower jaw bone to the skull on each side of the face and is responsible for your ability to open and close your mouth. Symptoms such as pain in the jaw, pain around the ear, and pain upon eating can all the indicative of TMJ issues. More severe cases can actually present as lockjaw and make it difficult to open and close your mouth.

Toothache and Jaw Pain

Both tooth decay and a fractured tooth may cause a patient to develop a toothache or even an abscess that can lead to referred pain in other parts of the face, including the temporomandibular joint. Often, simply treating the infected tooth should resolve any referred pain in the TMJ.

When a patient receives restorative dental treatment, it can affect their bite which may alter the way their teeth come together, causing additional strain on the jaw joint, leading to inflammation and irritation. Left untreated, this can all lead to long-term TMJ issues. Patients with restorative dental work, and even those who do not have dental restorations, can greatly benefit from the use of a night guard while they sleep to relieve any grinding or stress applied to the teeth and jaw.

TMJ and Tooth Pain

Discomfort related to TMJ issues can be dull and achy or sharp and searing. Much like a toothache, discomfort can be intermittent or continuous which can sometimes make it difficult for patients to determine whether they are suffering from a toothache or a TMJ issue. TMJ also causes tooth pain by irritating trigger points in the face. Trigger points form when muscles become contracted and stiff, preventing oxygenated blood from reaching the area which keeps toxins in a localized spot, leading to tenderness in the area.

Pain in the temporomandibular joint can radiate to other parts of your face, neck, and head. When pain radiates up it can cause you to feel pain in your ears, head and even eyes. Since the joint is located near a number of muscles, nerves, and ligaments, referred pain from TMJ can radiate downward to make it feel like it is a toothache.

How do I know if my jaw pain is a toothache or jaw related?

Any pain related to your mouth or jaw should be evaluated by your dentist as soon as you notice it. They will evaluate your mouth and take any necessary x-rays to check for tooth decay or an abscess. If they believe you have a TMJ issue, they may refer you to a physical therapist or pain clinic for treatment.

Tooth sensitivity to hot and cold or sugar is more often than not a tell-tale sign that you have a cavity that can be treated easily by your dentist. If jaw pain lessens when you massage your temporomandibular joint, you may have a TMJ issue. Either way, it is important to seek treatment right away to prevent further damage to your jaw or teeth.

Stress and Jaw Pain