The jaw joint, medically referred to as the temporomandibular joint or TMJ, is made up of the bone below the mouth (the mandible, commonly referred to as the jawbone) and the bone just above the mouth (the maxilla). The TMJ allows the upper jaw to close on the lower jaw and is one of the most frequently used joints of the body.
The temporomandibular joints are complex structures containing muscles, tendons, and bones. Injury to or disorders of these structures can all result in pain in the jaw area. Jaw pain may occur on one side or on both sides, depending upon the cause. Jaw pain can result from trauma to the jawbone, including fractures and dislocations. Also depending upon the exact cause, the pain may occur when chewing or may occur at rest. Additionally, other medical conditions not related to the TMJ may cause perceived pain in the jaw area. One of the most characteristic of these is the pain associated with coronary artery disease (angina) or heart attack, which typically occurs in the chest but can radiate (spread) to the jaw area. Some kinds of arthritis, often osteoarthritis, can affect the TMJ and lead to pain when moving the joint. Relaxation and softening of the joints during pregnancy due to secretion of the relaxin hormone can aggravate jaw pain in pregnancy. Less common causes of jaw pain include tumors, cysts, and infection of bone (osteomyelitis). Trigeminal neuralgia is a condition of the nervous system that causes extreme facial pain that sometimes involves the jaw area. Jaw pain can be associated with other symptoms, including
- a "popping" sensation,
- tooth pain,
- difficulty chewing,
- tenderness and aching of other areas of the face or neck.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.
Pictures, Images, Illustrations & Quizzes
Ear Infection Quiz: Test Your Medical IQ
Is it possible to prevent ear infections? Take the Ear Infection (Otitis Media) Quiz to learn the risks, causes, symptoms and...
Ear Infection Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
Learn about the causes and symptoms of ear infections and how they are diagnosed and treated. Read about treatments such as ear...
Headaches Quiz: Learn About Headache Pain
If you're plagued with headaches, our Headaches Quiz may help you identify causes, triggers, symptoms, and treatments for...
Migraine or Headache? Migraine Symptoms, Triggers, Treatment
What does a migraine feel like? Discover the difference between headaches and migraines. Learn to spot migraine symptoms early,...
Sinus Infection (Sinusitis) Symptoms & Treatment
Sinus infection (sinusitis) symptoms can include headaches, a sore throat, and toothaches. Chronic sinusitis may be caused by...
Causes of Jaw Pain
An abscessed tooth is an infection within a tooth that has spread to the root. Symptoms of an abscessed tooth may include pain,...
Angina (Symptoms, Causes, Types, Diagnosis, and Treatment)
Angina is chest pain due to inadequate blood supply to the heart. Angina symptoms may include chest tightness, burning,...
Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints. When joints are inflamed they can develop stiffness, warmth, swelling, redness...
Broken Bone (Types of Bone Fractures)
A broken bone is a fracture. There are different types of fractures, such as: compressed, open, stress, greenstick,...
A bruise, or contusion, is caused when blood vessels are damaged or broken as the result of a blow to the skin. The raised area...
Cluster Headache (Symptoms, Causes, Treatment Relief, Cures)
Cluster headache is a type of headache that recurs over a period of time. There are episodes that last one to three times a...
Cysts are sac-like structures that may be filled with gas, liquid, or solid materials. Cysts may produce symptoms and signs...
Ear Infection (Otitis Media)
Middle ear infection or inflammation (otitis media) is inflammation of the middle ear. There are two forms of this type of ear...
Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA or Temporal Arteritis)
Giant cell arteritis, inflammation of blood vessel walls, affects 10%-15% of polymyalgia rheumatica patients. Symptoms of giant...
Heart attack happens when a blood clot completely obstructs a coronary artery supplying blood to the heart muscle. A heart attack...
Migraine headaches are severe headaches that are sensitive to light, sounds, and smells. Some people who suffer from...
Myofascial Pain Syndrome
Myofascial pain syndrome is muscle pain in the body's soft tissues due to injury or strain. Symptoms include muscle pain with...
Sinus Infection (Sinusitis)
Sinus infection (sinusitis) is caused by allergies, infection, and chemicals or other irritants of sinuses. Signs and symptoms...
Stress occurs when forces from the outside world impinge on the individual. Stress is a normal part of life. However,...
Swimmer's Ear (Symptoms, Prevention, Treatment)
Swimmer's ear (external otitis) is an infection of the skin that covers the outer ear canal. Causes of swimmer's ear include...
Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)
Bruxism is the medical term for teeth grinding. Bruxism may be caused by stress or anxiety and often happens during sleep....
Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ)
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome is a disorder that causes symptoms like pain, clicking, and popping of the jaw. TMJ is...
A toothache is a pain on or around a tooth. It may be caused by a variety of things from a cavity, abscess, or even sinusitis....
Pain that originates in the face is referred to as trigeminal neuralgia. This pain may be caused by: an injury, an infection...
Other Causes of Jaw Pain
Examples of Medications for Jaw Pain
- acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tylenol Arthritis Pain, Tylenol Ext, Little Fevers Children's Fever/Pain)
- aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid, Bayer, Ecotrin, and others)
- ibuprofen (Advil, Children's Advil/Motrin, Medipren, Motrin, Nuprin, PediaCare Fever, and others)
- naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprelan, Naprosyn)
- OTC Pain Relievers and Fever Reducers
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter