Jaw Pain on One Side – Reasons, Causes, Solutions

Excerpt: Pain can be a frightening thing to experience...
Table of Contents

Pain can be a frightening thing to experience, especially if it’s because of a new cause you haven’t had before. If you do experience pain in your mouth that does not go away or comes and goes regularly, you should definitely see a dentist. Pain is never a positive symptom, and it could be an early warning sign of something more serious.

Jaw Pain On One Side – Causes

Jaw pain is one symptom that can be caused by many different oral issues. If you do have jaw pain, you should resist trying to diagnose it yourself and get professional medical help.

TMJ Disorders

The Temporomandibular joint (TMJ or TMD) works sort of like a hinge that connects your jaw to the skull. Symptoms in TMJ patients can often include pain, or tenderness in the jaw and surrounding muscles. 

Treatments for TMJ Include

  • Pain and anti-inflammatory medications
  • Tricyclic antidepressants in low doses
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Mouth guards
  • Physical therapy
  • Botox or corticosteroid injections
  • Surgery
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) example


Sinusitis is a tissue infection of the sinus or nasal cavities. It can cause pain in the jaw, and face, as well as these symptoms:
  • Headaches
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Trouble smelling or tasting

Treatments For Sinusitis Include

  • Nasal spray
  • Antibiotics
  • Pain relievers
  • Surgery to remove an infection, diseased tissues, or obstruction

Oral Health Problems

Many oral health problems have pain as an early warning symptom. The pain can, however, be misleading since it can come from different areas and can feel like it’s a sharp, dull, aching, throbbing pain depending on the issue. If you have ongoing pain you should seek help early on, cause it could possibly mean one of these things:
Pain is usually one of a few or even many symptoms that you may experience. You may experience temporary pain or sensitivity. This type of pain can happen suddenly without reason and may go away equally as fast. If you do have ongoing pain you can do a few things to mitigate your issues:
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – These drugs help with swelling and inflammation. Over-the-counter medication can be found at many different stores and is often quite effective at mitigating pain. If you have swelling you can take Ibuprofen or Naproxen. Both these drugs do similar things, Naproxen is slower to act but lasts longer, and Ibuprofen is faster to act but does have a shorter lifespan. Popular brand names for Ibuprofen include Advil and Motrin, for Naproxen you can buy Aleve. It may be good to try both at separate times to see what works for you. You can also buy acetaminophen (Tylenol), Tylenol helps to increase your pain tolerance. Before trying any medication, you should always consult your doctor or dentist.

Injury (Trauma)

Trauma to the side of the face can result in bruises, cuts, swelling, redness, and pain. Minor jaw injuries may heal fine on their own with out treatment, minor would entail no significant cuts, bruises, breaks, or dislocations. To make the healing quicker and easier, it may be advisable to take OTC medication and use a cold compress when you can to reduce swelling.
More serious jaw injuries require surgery to:
  • Move dislocated jaws back into place
  • Place metal plates in the damaged bone to help it heal
  • Wire the jaws shut to keep damaged bones in place during the healing process
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When To See A Dentist For Jaw Pain

Talk to a dentist or healthcare provider if your jaw pain doesn’t go away after a few days, or if you experience:

  • Facial pain or swelling that doesn’t improve after a few days
  • Worsening pain
  • Trouble opening or closing the mouth or chewing
  • A bad taste in the mouth
  • Sensitive, swollen, red, or bleeding gums

When Is Jaw Pain An Emergency?

Jaw pain isn’t often an emergency situation, however, if you experience the following along with jaw pain, you will want to make an emergency dentist appointment, or if that isn’t an option, call 911.

  • A high fever
  • Extreme pain or neck stiffness
  • Vision changes
  • Severe facial swelling 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Redness or swelling around the eyes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Severe bleeding 
  • Intense pain that goes away, followed by a burst of salty liquid that smells or tastes bad
  • Pain in the arms or shoulders
  • Light-headedness or confusion
  • New, sudden pain

How Do I Diagnose Jaw Pain?

If it is sudden onset jaw pain, it may be very difficult to diagnose on your own. You should never attempt to diagnose your on jaw pain with out the help of a medical professional. A dentist however, has lots of options to diagnose jaw pain, these include:

  • Asking about your symptoms
  • Examining the jaw
  • Listening to and feel the jaw while the mouth closes and opens
  • Taking X-rays or CT or MRI scans of the jaw, face, and/or neck
  • Running blood tests
  • Taking a swab or cultures from the nose and send them away for testing
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