Potential causes of jaw pain include grinding teeth, dental problems and temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, disorder, according to Colgate. Grinding the teeth is a leading cause of pain and may occur when the patient feels stress or at night when he sleeps and is unaware of it. Stress reduction exercises or use of a mouth guard when sleeping helps to prevent this type of jaw pain.
While other dental conditions, including cavities, gum disease and abscessed teeth, do not affect the jaw joint directly, the pain they cause sometimes affects it, notes Colgate. Untreated cavities provide pathways for bacteria to enter the pulp of the teeth and cause infections. These infections can spread from the root of the tooth to the bone and begin affecting other tissue, including the jaw.
TMJ is a condition that doctors believe relates to the muscles and parts of the joint, explains WebMD. Accidents that cause whiplash, grinding the teeth, arthritis, movement of the soft tissue in the joint and stress are potential causes of TMJ. The pain is often severe and may be temporary or long-term. If the pain levels do not improve with lifestyle changes, the patient might require dental work or surgery.