Your eyes burst open from a deep sleep. A sharp pain stabs your jaw. You pop a few pain relievers but cannot get back to sleep. Should you seek immediate medical attention?
Unless you have additional, worrisome symptoms, you probably don’t need to rush to the emergency room.
What, then, is causing this jaw pain? Read on to learn why unilateral (one-sided) jaw pain happens and how to treat it.
Common Causes of Jaw Pain
Jaw pain can originate in the jaw bone, jaw joint, sinuses, or teeth. It can come on gradually or suddenly.
The Temporo Mandibular Joint attaches your jaw to your skull and acts like a sliding hinge. Your jaw has powerful muscles that can strain the joint greatly. Disorders affecting this joint are referred to as TMJ disorders or TMD.
Pain from TMJ can be caused by a worn joint, grinding of your teeth, stress, a misaligned bite, or a blow to your head.
Oral Health Issues
Cavities in the teeth can cause pain that radiates into the jaw. Likewise, an abscessed tooth, cracked tooth, loose filling, or loose crown can cause jaw pain.
Gum disease, too, can cause pain in the jaw on one side.
Sinusitis occurs when a cold virus leads to blocked and inflamed nasal passages. You will experience pain as mucus builds up in the sinuses, creating pressure.
Rarer Causes of Jaw Pain
While uncommon, issues with the 5th cranial nerve (trigeminal neuralgia) can cause pain down into the jaw.
Pain can come from a swelling in the jaw bone itself (osteomyelitis). This pain results from an infection migrated from elsewhere in the body. In some cases, it can arise due to an injury to the jawbone.
Tumors and cysts can grow in the jaw. These usually aren’t cancerous, but they can expand and displace tissue, causing pain.
Jaw Pain Solutions
You will need a doctor of dentistry to treat TMJ/TMD. Try one or more of the following treatments for other common jaw problems.
- Cold compresses to reduce swelling, or heat to increase blood flow
- OTC drugs such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen
- Rest your jaw and massage the jaw muscles
In some cases, it could be the way you sleep. Try changing your sleeping patterns to rule out pressure from your hand pressing against your jaw.
Consequences of Ignoring Jaw Pain
Conditions such as TMJ often worsen and cause additional issues for your health. Untreated jaw pain does not resolve itself and can lead to:
- Sleep apnea
- Bruxism (grinding and gnashing of the teeth)
- Night Headaches
- Tooth Loss
Pain from sinusitis and stress will continue for a week to 10 days. TMJ and teeth issues need dental intervention.
Jaw Pain On One Side Has Many Causes
Some jaw pain can be treated at home with simple remedies. Jaw problems such as TMJ/TMD, and oral health issues, cannot and require a visit to your dentist.