Tannins are plant compounds that display a variety of properties, some of which are beneficial and others that lead to problems. Tannins cause red wine and black tea to be astringent and bitter, which may affect your saliva glands and trigger jaw pain. On the other hand, tannins display mild anti-inflammatory properties and they can quickly reduce bleeding, which is beneficial in healing dental trauma, a common cause of jaw pain. Consult with your doctor or dentist if you experience unexplained jaw pain that lasts for more than a few days.
Tannins are commonly found in unripe fruit, grapes and tea leaves. Plants use the tannic acid in tannins to regulate growth and deter predation from animals and insects. The astringency of tannic acid is what causes the dry and puckered feeling in your mouth after drinking red wine, black tea or juice from unripe fruit. As fruit and wine age, the tannins break down, which leads to less bitterness and astringency. Tannins have medicinal benefit also, as they display mild antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, according to “Natural Standard Herb & Supplement Reference: Evidence-based Clinical Reviews.” Tannins also cause constriction of blood vessels, which is helpful for healing wounds 1.
Tannins as a Cause of Jaw Pain
The bitterness and astringency of tannins cause a rapid increase in saliva secretion from the salivary glands, according to “Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine.” The main salivary glands in your mouth are the parotid glands, the submandibular glands and the sublingual glands 2. The parotids are the largest salivary glands and they are located directly over the hinges of the jaw, also called temporomandibular joints. Sudden stimulation of the parotid glands, either by ingesting tannins or from a cold draft, can lead to painful sensations and jaw muscle contraction or spasm. Jaw pain from consumption of tannins is usually mild to moderate in intensity and short-lasting. A similar phenomenon is experienced with drinking fresh, unsweetened lemon juice.
Tannins for Jaw Pain
A common cause of jaw pain is dental trauma, either accidentally or as a consequence of dental procedures. Lacerations, inflammation and infection are common consequences of dental trauma, which you can combat with the application of tannin-rich compounds. For bleeding, inflammation and pain inside your mouth, applying a cool tea bag helps because tannic acid constricts blood vessels and displays mild anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
Rich Sources of Tannins
The best known sources of tannins are black tea leaves and red wine. Natural apple, grape, cranberry and pomegranate juices all contain high amounts of tannins. Sometimes tannic acid is added to juices and ciders to create more astringent tastes. Other fruits notably rich in tannins are persimmons and strawberries. Tannins are also found in beer, especially the bitter varieties.
- Natural Standard Herb & Supplement Reference: Evidence-based Clinical Reviews; Catherine E. Ulbricht and Ethan M. Basch
- Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine; Simon Mills and Kerry Bone
- İsmail Çiydem/iStock/Getty Images