Jaw pain refers to any type of discomfort or pain around the temporomandibular joint, lower jaw or the surrounding tissue. The temporomandibular joint is the area that connects the temporal bone in the skull to the lower jaw bone. It is one of the most used joints in your body, making it very susceptible to strain.
Pain that is specifically on the right side of the jaw may signal trouble with the tissue in this area or the jaw bone itself. It may also be caused by medical issues with the surrounding structures of the neck and head or the nerves in this area. This could be brought on by injury or an underlying illness. Working with a doctor can help you better determine what is causing this jaw pain so it can be resolved.
Complications of Right Jaw Pain
As jaw pain sets in you may also develop pain in the teeth, shoulder, neck or ear. You may experience ear pain, dizziness, headache or a clicking or popping sound when yawning or chewing. You may also develop swelling in the face or around the jaw, tongue numbness or fever. The pain may limit your ability to open your mouth fully. In serious conditions caused by an potentially life threatening condition you may develop difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, sweating, nausea, vomiting or chest pain that spreads through the jaw, neck, shoulder and arm.
Causes of Right Jaw Pain
1. Trigeminal Neuralgia
Also known as tic doulourex, this disorder in the trigeminal nerve causes left or right jaw pain or pain on the face. This discomfort is typically restricted to one side but can occasionally appear in both sides of the face. The pain is often described as agonizing with some referring to this as "the suicide disease." Symptoms appear in flashes of stabbing pain that lasts for days or months at a time before disappearing for months or years. Pressure to the trigeminal nerve during activities such as brushing your teeth, eating or coming in contact with a strong gust of wind can cause an attack. Your doctor can prescribe a variety of medications for treatment. There are also surgical options.
The sinuses can become inflamed due to exposure to fungi, viruses, bacteria or allergens. Respiratory infections or the common cold can also cause sinusitis symptoms. When the sinuses are swollen it can cause pain throughout the face and jaw. The location of this discomfort will vary based on which of the sinus cavities is irritated. Inflammation in the right maxillary sinus can often put pressure on the right jaw and teeth.
3. Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction
A dysfunction in the joint that connects the jaw to the skull or the surrounding muscles is a common cause for pain in this area. This area is quite susceptible to developing damage from grinding of the teeth, misalignment of the teeth or arthritis. Frequent gum chewing or clenching the cheeks and jaw may also cause this area to become irritated. In this case pain may become worse when the mouth is opened.
Injury trauma to one side of the face such as that which might occur during contact sports or a vehicle accident can cause the area around the jaw to feel pain. In this case you may have difficulty opening the mouth or notice that your teeth have become misaligned. You may note numbness or tingling in the area, bleeding, bruising, tenderness or swelling around the jaw.
This condition is caused by grinding your teeth or clenching the jaw while sleeping. This can lead to tooth pain, earache, jaw pain, facial pain or headaches. Teeth grinding may cause depression, anxiety or insomnia in some cases.
6. Jaw Arthritis
The jaw is quite susceptible to developing osteoarthritis, infectious arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. This may be caused by repetitive use of the joint, aging or trauma. In this case symptoms may vary based on the nature of the arthritis affecting the joint. Pain may appear on both sides of the jaw, the jaw may become swollen or you may note that you have difficulty moving the jaw when arthritis sets in.
7. Dental Problems
Dental problems are one of the main causes for discomfort around the jaw area. Broken teeth, tooth cavities oral surgery, having a filling done or having a tooth pulled can cause the jaw to sit out of alignment, leading to jaw pain. A severe case of gingivitis or gum infection may also cause the jaw to become sore. In some cases a deep-seated wisdom tooth can cause the jaw to feel discomfort.
8. Bony Growths
Spurs or bony growths on the jawbone or temporomandibular joint can cause pain to appear when opening the mouth. This condition becomes more common as people age and the jaw experiences more wear and tear.
9. Other Conditions
A variety of conditions including inflammation of the parotid gland, tetanus, migraines, Lyme disease, cysts, tumors in the jaw, abscess, cancers of the neck or head, phossy jaw, osteonecrosis in the jaw, actinomycosis or osteomyelitis may cause pain on the right side of the jaw.
Treatments and Preventions of Right Jaw Pain
The type of prevention that must be applied will vary based on the cause of the jaw pain.
- Making a conscious effort to relax the jaw ad face can offset the symptoms and take pressure off the jaw.
- Visiting the dentist to have the teeth realigned can help to prevent jaw pain, particularly in children who are still waiting for their permanent teeth to grow in.
- Maintaining proper dental hygiene can help prevent infections that can cause pain in the jaw.
- Investing in a sturdy pillow and avoiding actions such as balancing your phone between the face and your shoulder can help prevent overstressing the jaw.
- Jaw pain can be treated with over the counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
- Those suffering from bruxism or TMD can visit their dentist to have a splint made that will not allow them to grind the teeth while they sleep. Some opt to have intra-aural devices inserted in the ear to help reduce pressure on the joints. Performing stress relieving exercises can help to relieve jaw pain as well. In severe cases your dentist may perform an arthrocentesis procedure by injecting an anti-inflammatory into the jaw or perform surgery to realign the jaw properly.