man holding his jaw in painWhen your temporomandibular joint is misaligned (a condition known as TMJ), it can cause radiating facial pain, neck and shoulder stiffness, tinnitus, and popping or clicking of the jaw. Patients may experience pain when eating, yawning, or speaking. This condition can worsen if not treated.

Although TMJ is a common cause of jaw pain, it is not the only cause. Many conditions will worsen when left untreated. In some cases, jaw pain can be indicative of more serious, even life-threatening conditions. If you experience jaw pain, it is best to see a medical professional with experience in dealing with disorders of the temporomandibular joint and surrounding areas.


The parotid glands are major salivary glands that are located in each cheek over the jaw on either side of the face. These sometimes become swollen and tender. When these glands swell, they can irritate nearby nerves in the jaw and may cause earaches. This condition has a variety of causes. The best-known cause is the viral infection mumps. These glands may also become swollen by bacterial infection, or when blockages such as tumors or stones form in or around the gland. This condition does not usually resolve itself, and can also be an indication of HIV. A medical professional should be consulted about possible treatment, antibiotics, or related health problems causing the swelling.

Trigeminal Neuralgia

Some people suffer from a chronic pain condition called trigeminal neuralgia, which affects the trigeminal nerve. This nerve is responsible for carrying sensory messages from your face to your brain. When the trigeminal nerve is affected by this condition, even mild stimulation to your face can cause jolts of intense pain. Symptoms may seem mild at first, but can grow progressively more frequent and painful if left untreated. Experienced doctors can offer different treatment options, including medication, injections, or surgery.


A rare but serious complication of tonsillitis, quinsy is the formation of an abscess between the tonsils and wall of the throat. Common symptoms of quinsy include unabating sore throat, jaw muscle stiffness, difficulty opening the mouth, earache, or swelling in the throat. To prevent the spread of infection, it is important to seek treatment if you experience jaw pain coupled with long-lasting sore throat symptoms and fever. An ear, nose and throat professional will be able to diagnose your condition and treat it accordingly.


If you experience jaw pain within eight days to a handful of months after receiving an injury caused by foreign metal piercing the skin, seek medical attention immediately. Tetanus is caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetani, commonly found in rust. The infection is characterized by muscle spasms that often begin in the jaw and progress to the rest of the body. Spasms in the jaw can be painful, and are usually called lockjaw because they make it difficult to open the jaw. Over the course of several months the spasms will spread to other muscles in the body. Thanks to modern medicine and vaccines, the mortality rate of tetanus has dropped from roughly 48% to 11% of reported cases, mostly comprised of unvaccinated individuals.

Nip Jaw Pain in the Bud

People may be tempted to brush off jaw pain as something that they can adjust to accommodate rather than seeking treatment. No matter what is causing your jaw pain, ignoring it will allow the condition to worsen over time. Making an appointment with a dental professional to assess the cause of your jaw pain could save you from increased pain and other complications.

If you experience radiating pain in facial muscles and painful clicking and popping of the jaw, your pain may be caused by TMJ. A TMJ dentist can assess the cause of your jaw pain and provide nonsurgical treatment to correct the problem and alleviate your symptoms. Please call (509) 532-1111 for an appointment with a Spokane TMJ dentist at Collins Dentistry  & Aesthetics.