When to See a Dentist About Your Jaw Pain

Apr 03, 2024
 When to See a Dentist About Your Jaw Pain
Jaw pain isn’t uncommon, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to ignore it or put off treating it. Here, learn why jaw pain happens and when you need to call our office to have it evaluated and treated.

Most people don’t think much about their jaws or the work they do until they have jaw pain. Then, even simple activities, like talking, yawning, or chewing, can cause uncomfortable symptoms.

Jaw pain affects about 12% of Americans and can happen for different reasons. However, regardless of the underlying cause, it should always be medically evaluated as soon as possible to prevent complications like long-term or even permanent jaw dysfunction.

At the Dental Studio of Pasadena, our team uses advanced techniques to determine the cause of jaw pain so we can manage it. Here are some common causes of jaw pain, including temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or TMD), and how to relieve it.

Why jaw pain happens

Some temporary jaw pain happens after eating chewy food or treats, like taffy or caramels. But when jaw pain lasts, it can be a sign of a more serious problem like the ones listed here.

Deep cavities or infections

Cavities that reach the central part of your teeth can cause symptoms that extend into your jaw, and sometimes, the infection itself can extend there, too. These deep infections require advanced treatments like root canals or even extractions.

Jaw or tooth trauma

Injuries involving oral or facial impacts can lead to jaw fractures or dislocations, which require emergency treatment. Broken teeth can also cause jaw pain.

Teeth grinding (bruxism)

Chronic teeth grinding and clenching put extra strain on jaw joints, leading to painful symptoms. Because grinding and clenching often happen during sleep, wearing a night guard is often an effective way of reducing muscle strain and relieving chronic jaw pain.

Gum disease

Gum disease happens when bacteria invade the gum tissue and multiply, leading to infections that can compromise the tooth’s structure. Advanced gum disease can cause pain in your jaws and jaw joints that can only be relieved through gum disease treatments.


Most people know arthritis can cause pain in their hands, knees, or hips, but they may not know that the jaw joints can be affected, too. Inflammation inside the joints leads to problems like “sticking” or stiffness, in addition to pain when moving the joints.


Temporomandibular joint disorder occurs when the jaw joints (temporomandibular joints) are strained, resulting in uneven or excessive jaw pressure and increasing pain. Many problems can lead to TMJ, including untreated grinding habits, missing teeth, poorly aligned teeth, or problems with jaw joint structure or function.

When to call the office

Jaw pain is never normal, but for temporary jaw pain caused by chewing, a little rest is usually all you need to feel better. For other types of jaw pain, a dental evaluation is essential, including pain that:

  • Is chronic or long-lasting
  • Recurs
  • Is severe
  • Is getting worse
  • Is accompanied by a fever
  • Interferes with speech or eating
  • Interferes with sleep
  • Follows an injury
  • Is accompanied by swelling
  • Is causing headaches or facial pain
  • Is associated with toothache

If you suspect you’ve broken or dislocated your jaw, you should head to the emergency room or call 9-1-1 immediately.

Don’t ignore your jaw pain

Without prompt treatment, jaw pain can lead to serious complications, including systemic infections or permanent jaw dysfunction. 

To find out what’s causing your jaw pain and how we can help, call 626-329-4658 or request an appointment online with the team at Dental Studio of Pasadena in Pasadena, California, today.