The jaw consists of two bones, the maxilla, or upper jaw, and mandible, or lower jaw. Pain in the lower jaw can occur from many different causes, and can be acute or chronic. Pain may also occur from conditions in the jaw bone itself or may be "referred" pain from problems in nearby regions, such as the mouth or neck.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Problems that can occur within the jawbone itself include cancer, infection, fracture and necrosis, or bone death. Fractures from blunt trauma to the mandible cause pain and swelling. Osteonecrosis of the jaw occurs in some people taking bisphosphonates, drugs used to treat osteoporosis, or low bone density. Necrosis develops more frequently in people taking the drugs intravenously to treat cancer, but cases have occurred in people taking the drugs orally as well. Symptoms include tooth loss over the area of the dead bone and painful, non healing exposed area of bone, reports rheumatologist Linda Russell, M.D. of the Hospital for Special Surgery.
Cancer of the jawbone can arise as a primary cancer or can metastasize, or spread, from another area. Pain and numbness or tingling often accompanies cancer of the jaw. (see reference 4)
- Problems that can occur within the jawbone itself include cancer, infection, fracture and necrosis, or bone death.
- Osteonecrosis of the jaw occurs in some people taking bisphosphonates, drugs used to treat osteoporosis, or low bone density.
Molar Toothache Pain
Many problems within the mouth, teeth and gums can cause jaw pain. Cavities, abscesses, infection and broken teeth can all cause pain that may be felt in the lower jaw.
TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorders, can cause pain at the junction point of the upper and lower jawbones, known as the TMJ joint 1. TMJ disorders occur most frequently in women between the ages of 20 and 40 to 50, according to Merck.com 1. Arthritis, muscle strain, problem with the cartilage in the joint, or dislocations or hypermobility in the joint can all cause TMJ pain. Tooth grinding, often considered to be a cause of TMJ pain, has not yet been proven to be a cause, reports Medline Plus 1.
Cheek Bone Diseases
Infection in the sinuses, heart disease--including heart attack--and ear infections can all cause pain in the lower jaw, according to endodontist Joseph Dovgan, D.D.S. Problem with the facial nerves, called trigeminal neuralgia, or swollen lymph nodes in the neck may also cause referred jaw pain.
Molar Toothache Pain
Cheek Bone Diseases
Causes of Jaw Bone Pain
Causes of Throbbing Ear Pain
Complications of Cellulitis
High Calcium Levels in Cancer Patients
Jaw & Neck Pain
Complications From an Infected Tooth
Causes of Left Shoulder Blade Pain
What Are the Treatments for an Avulsion Fracture?
- TMJ Disorders: Medline Plus
- Merck Manual: Fractures of the Jaw
- Merck Manual: Cancerous Growths, Mouth Growths
- TMJ disorders: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. MedlinePlus. Nov 6, 2019.
- Shetty S, Pitti V, Satish babu CL, Surendra kumar GP, Deepthi BC. Bruxism: a literature review. J Indian Prosthodont Soc. 2010;10(3):141-8. doi:10.1007/s13191-011-0041-5
- Dental cavities: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. MedlinePlus. Nov 6, 2019.
- Battisti AS, Pangia J. Sinusitis. Treasure Island, Fl: StatPearls Publishing; 2019.
- López-lópez J, Garcia-vicente L, Jané-salas E, Estrugo-devesa A, Chimenos-küstner E, Roca-elias J. Orofacial pain of cardiac origin: review literature and clinical cases. Med Oral Patol Oral Cir Bucal. 2012;17(4):e538-44. doi:10.4317/medoral.17636
- Saccucci M, Di carlo G, Bossù M, Giovarruscio F, Salucci A, Polimeni A. Autoimmune Diseases and Their Manifestations on Oral Cavity: Diagnosis and Clinical Management. J Immunol Res. 2018;2018:6061825. doi:10.1155/2018/6061825
- Trigeminal Neuralgia Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Aug 13, 2019.
- Avascular Necrosis | Osteonecrosis. MedlinePlus. Mar 17, 2016.
- Oral Cancer. MedlinePlus. Published August 18, 2016.
- Dimitroulis G. Management of temporomandibular joint disorders: A surgeon's perspective. Aust Dent J. 2018;63 Suppl 1:S79-S90. doi:10.1111/adj.12593
- Less Is Often Best In Treating TMJ Disorders. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. May 2013.
- American College of Rheumatology (2017). Osteonecrosis of the Jaw.
- American Dental Association-Mouth Healthy (n.d.). Jaw Pain.
- Gauer RL, Semidey MJ. Diagnosis and treatment of temporomandibular disorders. Am Fam Physician. 2015 Mar 15;91(6):378-86.
A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.