Why Does My Jaw Hurt When I Eat?

The jaw performs several crucial functions, including speech articulation, facial expression, tooth support, and even chewing. As such, it’s not uncommon for your jaw to hurt when you drink, eat, or swallow. Whether mild or severe, jaw pain during mealtime can limit your food choices, causing poor nutrition and weight loss. You might also avoid communal dining, increasing the risk of emotional distress and dietary disorders. So, what’s the answer to, “Why does my jaw hurt when I eat”? 

Why Does My Jaw Hurt When I Eat: Possible Reasons

Jaw pain can feel like stiffness in the temporomandibular joints, a prolonged mild discomfort, a throbbing ache, or a stabbing sensation. You may also feel pain when you open your mouth, with the discomfort moving to other parts of your body from time to time. However, call the emergency line if the pain spreads from the chest to your jaw—you could be moments away from a heart attack. An aching jaw during mealtime could result from the following.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), approximately 5-12% of people suffer from temporomandibular disorders. Temporomandibular joints comprise an extensive network of nerves, cartilage, and bones and connect the upper and lower jaw on both sides of your face. TMJ disorders can be caused by jaw injuries, inflamed muscles, displaced discs, arthritis, and excess joint stimulation. Symptoms include:

  • Clicking or popping jaws
  • Soreness when opening or closing the mouth
  • Headaches
  • Earaches
  • Aching jaw muscles


Blunt force can break or dislocate the jaw causing:

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Loose teeth
  • Stiffness
  • Bleeding
  • Numbness

While minor fractures can heal on their own, severe trauma may require interventions such as manual repositioning and supporting metal plates and wires.

Dental Conditions

Jaw pain is a symptom of various dental issues, including:

  • Gum disease
  • Misaligned teeth
  • Emerging wisdom teeth
  • Teeth grinding
  • Cavities

Other Complications

Here are other explanations for why your jaw hurts when you eat.

  • Sinuses
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Emotional distress
  • Ear infections
  • Tumors and cysts
  • Tetanus
  • Mumps
  • Cluster headaches 

Diagnosis and Treatment

While painkillers temporarily relieve your discomfort, you need to find the pain’s root cause for a happy, healthy jaw. Your doctor will check your mouth and ears, and even feel and listen to your jaw to better understand your symptoms. They may also order MRIs, CT scans, and X-rays and dig into your medical history.

Treatment depends on the underlying condition and severity of your symptoms. The doctor may prescribe medication, trigger point injections, mouthguards, and physical and ultrasound therapy. Although non-invasive procedures are most preferred, surgery might be necessary to ease your symptoms.

Get a Professional Exam

Alleviating your jaw pain starts with a proper diagnosis and treatment, and that’s what you get when you walk into LeCroy Dental. Besides maintaining the highest dental care standards, we provide a relaxing environment for speedy recovery. Still wondering, “Why does my jaw hurt when I eat”? Our experts are waiting to address your concerns. Book your appointment today.