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Jaw pain on one side can be concerning. But in most cases, it’s not a sign of a serious condition.
Mild jaw pain is usually temporary and resolves on its own. But severe jaw pain can feel excruciating, making it difficult to talk, chew, and swallow. It can also cause pain and discomfort in other parts of the body. Severe jaw pain typically requires medical attention and treatment.
People can experience one-sided jaw pain for a variety of reasons, some of which are common and others rare.
Common causes include:
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) works like a sliding hinge on either side of the jaw and connects the skull (specifically your temporal bone) and jawbone (your mandible bone).
People with TMJ disorders often experience pain or tenderness in the jaw and surrounding muscles. A TMJ disorder can also cause other symptoms like jaw locking and a grinding sensation or clicking sound when using the jaw. It can also cause ear pain.
Sinusitis is a type of infection in the tissues lining the sinus or nasal cavities. It can cause pain in the jaw or face and other symptoms, such as:
Minor to severe dental issues can cause jaw pain on one side. Examples include:
Many people with dental problems experience other symptoms, such as bleeding or swollen gums, tooth sensitivity, severe tooth pain, and bad breath.
In most cases, a dental professional may need to perform deep cleaning or dental surgery to treat these problems. You may also need to take antibiotics and take increased oral health measures.
Clenching the jaw, overusing the jaw muscles, or an overactive jaw muscle can also cause pain. But in these cases, jaw pain can occur on one or both sides.
Injuries to the jaw, such as a jaw dislocation or jaw fracture, can cause sudden pain on the impacted side.
Minor jaw injuries may heal without specific treatment. But you may only be able to have liquid or soft foods while the jaw heals.
More serious jaw injuries require surgery to:
Additional causes include:
Trigeminal nerve disorders often cause facial spasms and painful sensations that feel like an electric shock or searing pain.
Though relatively rare, abnormal lesions or growths such as cysts and tumors can grow in the jawbone or surrounding tissues. Cysts and tumors feel like hard or squishy lumps.
The best treatment for cysts and tumors depends on the type, stage of growth, and symptoms. But many people undergo surgery or a combination of surgery and therapy.
Heart attacks occur when blood flow to the heart is severely reduced or blocked. In some cases, a heart attack can cause a painful jaw on one or both sides, especially in women.
Heart attacks require emergency medical treatment.
Seek emergency treatment or call 911 if jaw pain is accompanied by:
Osteomyelitis is a bacterial bone infection that tends to develop in the lower jaw. People with osteomyelitis often experience fever and inflammation in addition to jaw pain.
To treat osteomyelitis, you will need to take antibiotics, often through an IV. Many people also undergo surgery to remove infected or dead portions of bone.
At-home remedies can help reduce mild jaw pain. Common remedies include:
Talk to a dentist or healthcare provider if your jaw pain doesn’t go away after a few days, or if you experience:
Seek emergency medical attention or call 911 if you have:
To diagnose the underlying cause of jaw pain, a dentist may:
A doctor may advise you to change some habits or use at-home remedies to manage jaw pain.
Medical treatments for jaw pain include:
Mild or temporary jaw pain often resolves on its own within a few days. It isn’t typically acause for immediate concern, and is often attributed to:
Talk to your dentist about persistent jaw pain, pain that goes away and comes back, or pain that is accompanied by other symptoms.
Severe jaw pain, or pain that interferes with eating, drinking, or talking, requires medical attention.
Seek emergency help or call 911 if you experience: