You probably don't think about how often you use your jaw. As you go throughout your day, you greet people with a smile, eat meals and discuss work projects with your supervisor-all without thinking about your jaw's mechanics.
Jaw pain changes that. You notice aches when you wake up or keep your mouth closed too long. You feel your jaw click when you speak. You feel a twinge of pain when you bite down.
Jaw pain represents a fairly common dental emergency, but it can occur for a number of reasons. In this blog, we give you an overview of five of the most common causes.
1. Improper Bite
Also known as malocclusion, an improper bite can cause immediate problems or become painful over time. When your teeth do not line up properly, they put pressure on each other. The pressure may result in dull pain or an ache while chewing or speaking.
Malocclusion can result from any of the following circumstances:
- Impacted wisdom teeth
- Missing teeth
- Thumb sucking
Your dentist may use extraction, bite correction or dental additions to correct your bite and reduce your pain.
2. Sinus Infection
The sinuses are air-filled spaces around the nose. When the sinuses become infected, they swell, creating pressure. In some cases, this pressure results in pain in the upper jaw and teeth.
If you have a sinus infection, you likely will feel pressure around your eyes, congestion and a headache in addition to any jaw pain. An emergency dentist can help diagnose this condition. He or she may refer you to an eye, nose and throat specialist after an initial treatment.
3. Teeth Grinding
Bruxism, or teeth grinding, usually occurs during sleep. This involuntary action can stem from stress or malocclusion. Some people do not actually grind their teeth, they simply experience compulsive jaw clenching. You likely will not notice the grinding as it happens. However, bruxism typically generates the following systems:
- Dull headache
- Jaw soreness
- Limited jaw movement
- Shortened teeth
- Temperature-sensitive teeth
Talk to a dentist if you experience these symptoms. You may particularly notice your jaw pain first thing in the morning. Your dentist may fit you with a mouth guard or recommend relaxation techniques to reduce your bruxism.