Jaw pain on one side: Causes and treatment

jaw pain on one sideExperiencing jaw pain on one side can be severely debilitating, preventing you from doing simple things such as talking to people or eating your meals. There are several causes of jaw pain on one side, which can be classified as being due to primary or secondary causes. Primary refers to a medical condition that affects the area directly, while secondary refers to a medical condition originating elsewhere in the body affecting the area indirectly.

The majority of jaw pain cases are due to primary causes such as injury or dental problems. Most secondary causes of jaw pain will most likely need to be seen by a specialist to help find an accurate diagnosis.

Causes of jaw pain on one side

Temporomandibular joint disorder


This disorder is characterized by excruciating pain or tenderness of your jaw. We use our jaw muscles every day to chew our food, to speak, and even simply just breathing. All of these actions rest upon a joint called the temporomandibular joint. This sliding hinge, connecting your jaw bone to your skull, can be the source of pain felt in the joint itself as well as the muscles that control jaw movement. The exact reasons TMJ disorders develop may be difficult to determine, but it can be the result of several factors including genetics, arthritis, or jaw injury.

Jaw trauma

Often a result of motor vehicle and contact sport accidents, jaw trauma is due to direct injury on the side of the jaw bone and is the most common cause of primary jaw pain. The jaw may look bruised and swollen, with possible bleeding. Patients may have difficulty opening and closing their mouths in addition to pain. Often times, surgery may be required to fix the jaw with painkillers and antibiotics helping to reduce pain and prevent infection.

Dental problems

This may include broken teeth, tooth cavities, periodontal disease, gingivitis, and recent dental fillings and oral surgery. Additionally, emergency removal of wisdom teeth and mouth or jaw infections can lead to jaw pain on one side.

Jaw arthritis

Often a result of aging, trauma, or repetitive use of the jaw joint. However, various systemic conditions may have jaw pain as a potential consequence as seen in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, septic (infectious) arthritis, or osteoarthritis. While symptoms of jaw pain may vary from patient to patient, difficulty moving the jaw bone with swelling are common presentations.

Heart attack

Occurring as a result of decreased blood supply to the heart, pain associated with a heart attack often travels to other places on the body, such as the jaw bone. Particularly, the lower left jaw bone. Symptoms of a heart attack also include shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, chest pain, and pain in the left arm and/or shoulder.


A condition characterized by grinding or clenching the teeth that may be done consciously or unconsciously. Many people experience bruxism while sleeping and it’s likely to be more common in those with sleep disorders such as snoring or sleep apnea. Teeth grinding will often cause your teeth to become flattened, fractured, chided, or become loosened. Additionally, jaw, neck, or face pain or soreness is common.

Other causes

  • Bony growths: Bone spurs, which are associated with osteoarthritis, can grow surrounding the jaw joint and create pain during mouth movements.
  • Other causes jaw pain: Includes sinus infections, teeth extraction, swollen glands, nasal infections, abscess or tumors of the jaw, neck or head cancers, or even migraines and headaches.
  • Serious causes: Heart attacks are considered the most serious cause of jaw pain. If jaw pain is accompanied by chest pain and tightness, it is recommended to seek medical attention right away.

Treatment of jaw pain on one side

Temporomandibular joint disorder

  • Pain relievers: Will often come in the form of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen. While over-the-counter options may be sufficient for most cases, your doctor may feel a stronger prescription grade NSAID may be required to manage your pain
  • Muscle relaxants: Helping to alleviate musculoskeletal pain and spasms
  • Tricyclic antidepressants: Originally developed to combat depression, these medications were found to have pain-relieving effects

Related: TMJ home treatment: Exercises and home remedies to treat TMJ

Dental problems

Dental problems will have to be taken care of by a dentist as they may they may only get worse if not remedied in a timely fashion. This often involves a full checkup of the entire mouth which will help formulate a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Jaw arthritis

Jaw arthritis is often relieved with muscle relaxants and pain relievers; however, splints and physical therapy may be useful for some individuals. Depending on the underlying causes, specific treatments may be utilized.


  • Splints and guards: Designed to keep the teeth separated and prevent the grinding of teeth.
  • Dental correction: Often done for severe cases as excessive tooth wear has led tooth damage and increased sensitivity.
  • Other options: Stress and anxiety management to help promote relaxation and better sleep. Behavior change teaching proper mouth and jaw position. As well as biofeedback, a method using monitoring procedures and equipment to teach you to better control jaw muscles.
  • Medications: Typically includes pain relievers such as muscle relaxants, but medications used for reducing stress or anxiety may also be found useful. Botox injections may be an option in severe cases unresponsive to other treatments.

Complications of jaw pain on one side

Complications of jaw pain will ultimately depend on the underlying cause as some cases may resolve on their own or with treatment, while others may cause permanent damage or even be life-threatening if not taken care of right away.


Poor nutrition owing to the difficulty opening and closing the mouth may pose a problem in long-standing cases. Not getting enough food to sustain the body can also lead to additional complication of malnutrition and poor health.

The psychological aspects of jaw pain may eventually manifest as stress, frustration, and unhappiness as having it will not allow you to enjoy the simple things you once did, like chatting with friends, eating your favorite meals, or simply breathing through your mouth.

Seeking the aid of a medical professional to diagnosis your particular case of jaw pain on one side or both as it will prevent it from getting worse and promote your health and wellbeing in the long run.


Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.