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Jaw pain – All about symptoms, causes and treatment


Jaw pain is an increasingly occurring and very stressful symptomatology. If left untreated, they often become chronic. Both jaw joints and jaw muscles are affected by jaw pain. They may also be accompanied by symptoms:

  • headaches
  • earaches
  • cracking temporomandibular joints
  • toothache
  • Teeth grinding (especially at night)

The term craniomandibular dysfunction (CMD) is often used for this very complex symptomatology of jaw pain. A suitable treatment is reasonable, possible and often necessary. In order to choose a suitable treatment, the pain triggers have to be determined. These can be manifold, of different kinds and can also be located far away from the oral cavity.

Causes of jaw pain

In order to find these, the first search takes place in the area of the oral cavity. Such obvious reasons can be, among others, the following:

  • deformity of the jaw
  • gnashing of teeth
  • focus of inflammation in the jaw
  • Deep caries
  • Non-fitting crowns or fillings

Dentistry is also used to diagnose jaw pain and can offer appropriate treatment approaches. Previous dental surgeries, especially on wisdom teeth, can cause such symptoms in case of complications. Sometimes colds, flu and fever can cause pain in the jaw joints and jaw muscles. However, the jaw joints and jaw muscles themselves can also be the cause of jaw pain. Short-term pain may be caused by injury after impact. Possible triggering factors, which are not related to the oral cavity, are increasing and should therefore also be considered:

  • Muscle tension in the neck and back
  • Resulting misalignment or tilting of the head
  • Slanting of the pelvis

If the basically ideal statics of the spinal column are disturbed, disturbing effects from the legs high over the pelvis and the back up to the head work. The very complex jaw joint reacts to this asymmetry with jaw pain, strain, wear and tear and even arthrosis. The other possible causes of jaw pain should be treated or excluded by a dentist or ENT specialist. Most of the remaining and chronic jaw pain is due to muscular tension caused by stress. Self-help can also improve this situation.

Treatment of jaw pain

The following methods are suitable for relieving severe jaw pain:

  • Cooling with ice: An ice pack wrapped in a cloth can be placed on painful spots for 10 minutes. Repeat after 10 minutes.
  • Relaxation by heat: Apply a wash cloth soaked in warm water to relax jaw muscles and temporomandibular joints. This often relieves acute jaw pain.
  • Painkillers: If there is no improvement, prescription-free painkillers can help in the short term. However, these should never be taken for longer than a few days. Also, if the jaw pain reappears, the cause should be sought and found.

Further and meaningful treatment of jaw pain depends on the findings. Dental diseases such as tooth decay can be treated by the dentist. Possibly also fillings and crowns must be adapted for it by grinding. Otherwise they lead to pain-inducing and incorrect loading of the jaw joints and jaw muscles due to a developing malocclusion. If nocturnal grinding of the teeth is added, an applied occlusal splint at night provides protection for the teeth. However, only a functional splint can relieve strain on the jaw joints and jaw muscles. This is more complex to produce and must be individually adapted. Orthodontic orthodontics, to which the dentist refers in the presence of such symptoms, can treat jaw malpositions.

Help with tension and stress

As described, stress can directly or indirectly tense the jaw muscles and irritate the temporomandibular joints. They react with pain. Prevention of these stress factors is possible in various ways:

  • Avoidance of incorrect posture when sitting, standing or walking
  • Take special measures in case of long and frequent screen work
  • Move frequently and balanced
  • Use relaxation techniques such as Yoga or Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
  • Stress reduction through meditation and affirmations

Through regular exercises, jaw muscles can be loosened and temporomandibular joints relieved, for example with a massage:

  • The forefinger and middle finger are placed on the painful area of the jaw in front of or under the ear.
  • With light pressure and a closed mouth, this area is then massaged ten times in a circle.
  • The same procedure is repeated when the mouth is open.

Auxiliary devices such as small balls and rollers facilitate the massage and also reach the muscle fasciae. There are also physiotherapy practices that specialize in the manual treatment of CMD in stubborn cases.


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