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Jaw Pain on One Side – Causes and Treatment

Written by Dr.Mary

Jaw pain which is only on one side can be due to several causes, and can be discussed with a family dentist. This problem can be categorized into 2 kinds – primary as well as secondary. Jaw pain that is primary involves pain which is created by some medical condition concerning the jaw. Jaw pain that is secondary is caused by a health/medical problem in some other part of the body. In cases of jaw pain of the secondary type, the discomfort or pain is actually in some other area of the body and travels to the jaw and the individual has jaw pain. Most problems of jaw pain that are primary may be cared for by a specialist or a dentist, but the individual might need to see other specialist for jaw pain that is secondary. But the starting place is with the family physician or dentist as they will refer the individual to other specialists.


Pain in the jaw can happen on either side or just one side, depending on its source. As jaw pain that is primary is created by problems connected with the jaw, the majority of these create pain on only one side. Besides pain in the jaw there may be other symptoms, such as:

  • Popping or clicking sounds from jaw joint
  • Headaches
  • Problems with jaw moving
  • Problems in chewing food or talking
  • Problems in closing and opening the mouth
  • Muscles in the face or around the jaw are sore
  • Grinding of the teeth

Below are some causes for jaw pain on only one side:

Temporomandibular joint disorder

The most frequent cause for pain in the jaw on only one side and distresses the “temporomandibular” joint. It is commonly known as TMJ/TMD. With this cause, the joints of the jaw do not close or open properly.

Jaw trauma

One primary case of jaw pain – trauma to jaw

Dental problems

Includes broken teeth, cavities and teeth which are misaligned. Another problem is surgery that is oral as well as fillings in the teeth. Severe gingivitis or other gum infections also create jaw pain on only a single side

Arthritis of the jaw

This can affect and cause pain in the jaw. Can be either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Lyme disease also can be a cause of jaw pain.

Bony Growths

Bone spurs or growths surrounding the joint of the jaw may create jaw pain when the mouth is opening.


Other Causes Jaw Pain

Some other common causes include infection, abscess, or tumors of the jaw, sinus infections, teeth extraction, swollen glands, nasal infections, migraines, dental caries, dental surgeries, neck or head cancers, as well as osteomyelitis

Serious Causes

Cause of pain in the jaw that is life-threatening is a heart attack. Jaw pain accompanied with chest pain, problems breathing, nausea, arm or left shoulder pain needs immediate attention medically. Any or all of these symptoms could be symptoms of a heart attack.


Having to live with jaw pain on one side can be very frustrating and also quite painful. The pain can hit when you chew, laugh, yawn or talk. So, you are having to endure jaw pain most of the time. The beginning place to get help with this pain, is to first seek dental attention so that the process to discover what is causing the pain can begin. You can’t get rid of the pain until you know what is causing it.

If an individual has any of the above symptoms, there should be a visit first with a dentist. The dentist will need to make the diagnosis of the cause of the jaw pain before prescribing any treatment and can work with your primary care physician to help make a diagnosis. To begin making a diagnosis the dentist will do the following:

  • Take a medical history
  • Perform a physical exam
  • Check on how the jaw slides when biting
  • Look for excessive wear on biting surfaces
  • Special X-ray techniques in order to make the diagnosis
  • Lab tests to diagnose any bacteria or fungal infections.

If the problem is caused medically such as infection, the individual may be referred to their family physician.

Until the diagnosis is made, the dentist can prescribe some pain medication if the pain in the jaw is severe..

  1. This was an extremely informative presentation which will definitely help me with my problem! Things were discussed in detail, which once again is extremely informative. My first day with this problem was yesterday! Everything discussed in the article caused me to respond because I do experience much of the details discussed! Thank you for this wonderful “lesson”!
    Prof. Barbara

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