Pain in the jaws or cheekbones is a common problem affecting many people at some time in life. Jaw pain from wisdom teeth can occur to many people especially when they begin to erupt.
Pain and swelling around the jaw and gum could be one of the first signs of wisdom teeth coming in.
There are several reasons other than wisdom teeth issues that can inflict pain in the jaws, facial bones, or gums. As there are multiple reasons for pain in the jaws, a precise diagnose is crucial for the right treatment.
Your dentist or physician can identify the cause and provide the best course of pain relief treatments.
Major causes of jaw pain
Without going into detail, let us have a look at some of the major causes of pain in and around the jaws. Some of them are:
- Dental problems such as impaction, cavity, abscesses, broken tooth, gum diseases
- Infection from tooth extraction or cyst can cause inflammation in the jaw
- People suffering from any form of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) such as nerve problem, physical injury, or blood vessel problem may experience jaw pain
- Grinding teeth during the sleep
- Sleeping with a wide-open mouth
- Osteomyelitis disease that affects the bones and associated tissues of the jaw
- Arthritis makes the surface bones in the jaws wear away
- Sinus problem
- Synovitis or capsulitis that causes inflammation in the ligaments or joints of jawbones
- Hypertension causing headache, facial pain including the jaws
- Neuropathic pain
- Vascular pain is caused by an inadequate supply of blood
- Migraines and cluster headaches (neurovascular pain)
Jaw pain from wisdom teeth
Wisdom teeth are the upper and lower third molars, located at the very back of the mouth. They are called wisdom teeth because they usually grow between the ages of 17 and 21 – when a person has turned adult and gained some wisdom.
Wisdom teeth are vulnerable to many types of dental issues which can cause inflammation and pain in the jaws.
Let us now look at some of the issues with wisdom teeth that may give rise to jaw pain.
Pericoronitis is a dental disorder in which gum tissues became swollen and infected around the wisdom teeth. It happens when a wisdom tooth has only partially erupted. In such a condition bacteria can stay lodged around the tooth and cause an infection.
If bacteria cause severe infection around the teeth then swelling and infection can spread beyond the jaws to the cheeks and neck. It can cause pain in the jaws, neck, cheekbones, and back of the mouth.
Impacted wisdom tooth
The condition of the impacted wisdom teeth can get worse by causing inflammation and pain. According to a study by BMJ Clinical Evidence, “Impacted wisdom teeth occur because of a lack of space, obstruction, or abnormal position, and can cause inflammatory dental disease manifested by pain and swelling of infected teeth and may destroy adjacent teeth and bone.”
Some of the common symptoms of impacted wisdom teeth are pain in the back of the mouth, headaches, swelling and bleeding gum, swelling, and pain around the jaw, and swollen glands in the shoulder and back of the neck.
Wisdom teeth cavity
A deep cavity in the wisdom teeth reaching up to the root of the teeth can cause inflammation. Infected tooth cavities may cause swelling and pain in the jaws, neck, and facial muscles, and nerves.
Infection in the gum
The upper and lower arch of the mouth may not have enough room for the proper growth of the wisdom teeth. Some persons also have proportionately larger wisdom teeth than the rest of the molars.
In such a scenario, the wisdom teeth break through your gums only partway because of a lack of space. This can result in a flap of gum tissue growing over them. This flap of skin tissue can trap food and cause a gum infection with pain and swelling in the jaws and back of the mouth.
According to a report published by Cambridge University Hospitals, a cyst is a sac of tissue that has either fluid or soft material inside it. Cysts can form in a wide range of issues including in the face and mouth (including the jaws). Some can form next to or around teeth, which are called dental cysts.
It can damage the jaw bone and roots of the teeth. Severe cysts around the wisdom teeth can cause swelling and pain in and around the jaw.
Extraction of Wisdom teeth
Removal of wisdom teeth can become unavoidable because of overcrowding, severe cyst formation, a deep cavity, impacted teeth, or growing in the wrong direction.
In a 2015 study published by the Journal of Istanbul University Faculty of Dentistry, Odontogenic and oropharyngeal infections are relatively common in the cervicofacial region (including jaws) after the extraction of third molars. Deep neck infections can become a potentially life-threatening problem if not treated on time.
After the extraction of wisdom teeth, pay special attention to the sore jaw that can cause pain and swelling.
Jaw pain diagnosis
As we have already discussed, jaw pains can occur due to multiple reasons. Your physician can perform the necessary tests to ascertain the exact cause of the pain in the jaws.
Some of the diagnostic tests for tracing the causes of jaw pain include:
- Physical examination for assessing the mouth, teeth, jaw muscles, nerves, and neck bones
- Background check-up of pain and medical history
- Laboratory tests like erythrocyte sedimentation rate blood test
- X-ray or MRI scanning
- Testing for diseases that cause jaw pain
Treatments for jaw pain will vary according to the cause of the pain.
If you have jaw pain resulting from wisdom teeth cavity or infection, then your physician may prescribe antibiotics and pain relief medicines.
A minor cavity in the wisdom teeth can be easily filled up. It is better to remove or do a root canal treatment for a wisdom tooth with an infected cavity.
Removal of crowding or impacted wisdom tooth is necessary for getting rid of the pain and irritation caused by it.
Depending on the cause of the jaw pain other useful treatments are:
- The surgical process for removing damaged bone or treating the affected nerve
- Use of mouthguards
- Using muscle tranquilizers or relaxants
- Administering antidepressants
- Antiviral therapy to manage the infection
- Use of topical capsaicin for nerve-related conditions
- Steroid Injections
- Blood pressure medications
- Vapo-coolant spray to relieve pain
- Massage and acupuncture
- Soft diet
- Cold compress
Wisdom teeth are highly susceptible to infection because of their position in the mouth.
While you are brushing or flossing, the wisdom teeth are frequently neglected or not properly cleaned. Because of this plaque or other infections do happen to wisdom teeth due to bacteria. Proper cleaning of all teeth can help to prevent cavities, plaque, and infections that can cause swelling and pain.
Wisdom teeth that remain partially covered under a flap of gum tissues can also trap food and bacteria that lead to infection and plaque.
You should speak to your doctor and do a regular dental checkup to prevent tooth issues. Your doctor can also help you with timely treatments to prevent tooth decay and infections.
Removal of impacted wisdom teeth is beneficial for preventing infection, cyst, and jaw pain.
The Bottom Line
Jaw pain can happen for many different reasons. One of the common causes of jaw pain is the eruption of 3rd molars or wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth impaction and crowding also can cause pain and swell around the jaw.
Pericoronitis, cavity, and infection in the gum flapping the wisdom teeth may cause pain and swell around the jaw.
Crowding or displacement of teeth after the growth of third molars can increase the harshness of grinding teeth (bruxism) resulting in soreness around the jaw.
Removal of impacted, displaced, or damaged wisdom teeth can prevent the occurrence of pain in jaws caused by third molars.