Causes of a Painful Jaw

By Jiahui International Hospital 2023-05-06 14:08:26

If you’ve woken up with a headache and sore jaw muscles, you know the pain of having persistent jaw issues. 

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ), or jaw, acts like a hinge that connects the jawbone to the skull. When disorders of this joint occur, they involve the jaw muscles, joints, and nerves associated with chronic facial pain. It is a common disease, particularly in women aged 20 to 40. 

Pain is caused by a variety of factors, with symptoms including abnormal noises in the joint area, pain, and lower jaw movement problems. 

It is common for a painful jaw to coincide with other jaw ailments like teeth grinding at night and clicking or popping noises when the mouth is opened and closed. 

Temporomandibular disorders can be divided into masticatory muscle disorders (the muscles related to chewing), structural joint disorders, inflammatory diseases, and osteoarthritis. 


  • Pain when opening or closing the mouth, or the joints click. 

  • Teeth grinding or clenching, with pain in the masticatory muscles after waking up in the morning

  • Difficulty opening the mouth. 

  • Frequent headaches or neck pain. 

  • Pain in the temporomandibular joint area. 

  • Locking of the temporomandibular joint. 

  • Muscle pain and tenderness, with limited mandibular movement. Pain can extend half of the face.

Protective measures

  • Avoid opening your mouth wide or biting and chewing hard food.

  • If you have a habit of chewing on one side of the mouth, consciously try to chew on both sides of the mouth. Pay close attention to ensuring that you use the back teeth on both sides of the mouth evenly.

  • Keep the temporomandibular joint area warm. Avoid cold wind blowing directly onto the jaw joint area just in front of the ear and keep away from the air conditioner outlet in summer.

  • If you have any missing teeth, you are recommended to visit a dentist as soon as possible.

  • Try to maintain a good work-life balance, ensuring you get enough sleep to reduce the likelihood of depression and irritability.

  • Please seek urgent medical attention if you experience significant limitations in your ability to open your mouth, as well as joint pain, or a clicking and popping sound when opening or closing the mouth.

  • Try to break the habit of clenching your teeth, particularly when you are stressed or nervous.

  • If you grind your teeth at night, please seek medical advice regarding the use of a dental night guard.

Long-term effects

If the symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder persist for a long time, structural disorder of the joint may appear. Orthodontics or orthognathic surgery are needed to restore the patient’s normal eating and chewing. If the pain is severe, artificial joint replacement may be required.


The patient should relax and be emotionally stable without being overly nervous. Also, localized massage in the area and physical therapy can be used. Local adjustments can be made such as orthodontics or addressing tooth grinding. Additionally, it is good to correct bad habits, such as unilateral chewing, long-term chin support or some factors of mental stress.

In some cases, symptoms of TMJ disorders may disappear without treatment. If symptoms persist, your doctor may recommend a variety of treatment options, often more than one will be done at the same time. These treatments may include drugs, non-drug treatments such as physical therapy, and splints. Minimally invasive surgery or surgical treatments will be also considered if conservative treatments failed.

Jiahui International Hospital

Address: 689 Guiping Road

Tel: 400 868 3000