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Mouth, jaw, or face pain

Pain in your mouth, jaw or face can result from a variety of factors. Some issues are cause for alarm and should receive immediate medical attention. Others are not, but should still be evaluated and treated by a doctor or dentist as soon as possible. It is often difficult to determine the underlying cause of your pain without a medical or dental exam . The cause of your pain could arise from:

  • A toothache that has radiated into the nerves of your face. This may be a sign of an abscess or other infection.
  • Trauma to face, or jaw bones and muscles.
  • Grinding or clenching (bruxism) of the teeth.
  • Sinus infections or blockage that can cause pain in the upper mouth.
  • Salivary gland blockages or other disorders.
  • Ear infections.
  • Stress, fatigue, or a lack of proper sleep (including sleep apnea ).
  • Conditions or diseases such as tetanus, mumps, lupus, or fibromyalgia.
  • Cluster headaches. The pain is typically behind the eyes, but can radiate down through the jaw.
  • Trigeminal neuralgia, a condition causing severe pain in a nerve that provides sensation to a large portion of the face and jaws.
  • A symptom related to angina or a heart attack. Jaw pain, most commonly in the left, lower jaw, is a noteworthy heart attack symptom, particularly in women.
  • Bacterial infections, such as cellulitis, which often begins in the mouth. This can be a life-threatening condition that requires immediate attention. Symptoms include red, warm, and tender areas on your face, usually without a fever.

What to do

  • If you are experiencing any of the following issues, get immediate medical attention or call 911 for a more rapid response.
    • Pain or swelling from face, head or neck trauma.
    • Swelling that restricts your breathing.
    • Excessive bleeding .
    • Severe or rapidly worsening pain in your teeth, jaws, face or mouth.
  • Keep in mind that you may not notice some dental and facial pain or underlying symptoms until days after the issue has actually begun. It's also common for some symptoms to come and go, which may lead you to believe that the issue is not worth being evaluated. Don't take this approach, as it can lead to greater problems over time. You should contact your doctor or dentist at the first sign of a problem.
  • For jaw pain with no other symptoms, contact your dentist for a consultation. Based on the history of your jaw pain, they may recommend ways to reduce your discomfort, or direct you to a physician. There may also be some techniques you can try at home to relieve pain, and avoid an emergency department or urgent care visit, including:
    • Gentle jaw exercises and stretching.
    • Jaw massage.
    • Hot or cold compresses.
    • Stress relief (meditation, light exercise, deep breathing, etc.).
Author: Symbyos staff, go2dental staff
Medical review: Thomas J. Greany DDS
Last medical review: February 7, 2021
Last updated: May 27, 2021