Confusing Facial Pain

Typically tooth-related pain is easily diagnosed and treated. Sometimes, though, the cause of facial pain can be difficult to pinpoint. The pain can be dull, intense, short-lived or chronic, on one side of your face or both. Jaw and mouth pain are often signs of stress, which can cause a number of physical problems. Jaw and mouth pain are also a possible sign of a heart attack.

One thing is certain – if you suffer from facial pain, you just want relief. Here are some common sources of facial pain and ways you can recognize them.


This is an infection that occurs when bacteria enter the nerve and blood vessel of your tooth, usually due to advanced tooth decay, gum disease or a cracked tooth. Symptoms include throbbing and persistent pain, facial swelling, red gums, and fever.

TMJ Issues

Habitually grinding or clenching your teeth can affect your temporomandibular joints. TMJ disorders can also be caused by a misaligned bite, arthritis, injury, and dislocation. Symptoms include clicking, popping, or pain in your joint area.

Trigeminal Neuralgia

Your trigeminal nerve is one of the largest nerves in your head and it sends signals from your face to your brain. When a blood vessel presses against the nerve, trigeminal neuralgia can result. Symptoms are intermittent jolts of mild to stabbing pain triggered by any stimulation to the face.

Masseter Pain

The masseter is the cheek muscle that gives the face a beautiful rounded appearance when we smile. Used when we chew, it exerts 140 pounds worth of pressure when we bite down. Pain in your masseter can give you a false toothache in the back of the mouth, cheek pain and earache, problems in the TMJ, as well as issues with opening your mouth.

Because facial pain can be so varied, a good place to start to find relief is a visit to the dentist. We will be able to help you pinpoint the cause and treat it, or refer you to the appropriate specialist.


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