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Why does my jaw hurt?

There is a constant ache in my jaw. It is on the left side and it is in the jaw joint, like where the back of my teeth are. Why does my jaw hurt? Is it not in line correctly?
The jaw is quite a complicated part of your anatomy being formed by two joints (the temporomandibular joints) and several muscles. Pain in the jaw is referred to as temporomandibular disorders or TMD. There are many possible causes of jaw pain and pain in the jaw can be associated with headache, neck pain, and/or clicking or popping noises when opening or shutting the jaw. It is important to have a thorough exam by either a dentist or a primary care physician to help determine the cause of your pain and prescribe appropriate treatment. X-rays may or may not be needed depending on your other symptoms and your exam. It is possible that your jaw or "bite" is not in line which over time can cause pain. Overuse injuries are common as well, caused by either chewing gum, clenching the jaw from stress, and grinding your teeth during sleep. Jaw pain can also be caused by a sinus infection. Another common cause of jaw pain is a toothache or periodontal disease. Make an appointment to determine the correct cause of your pain, but in the meantime try icing your jaw, avoiding overuse of your jaw, and taking an over the counter pain medication.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under ZocDoc’s Terms of Service.
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Answers are written by doctors from top institutions:
  • Cleveland Clinic
  • Boston Children's Hospital
  • NYU Langone Medical Center
  • Brigham and Women's Hospital
  • Johns Hopkins Hospital
  • Mass General Hospital
  • Beth Israel Medical Center
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