Sudden pain on one side of your jaw can be alarming, but it’s usually not serious. You might worry about dental issues such as a cavity or abscessed tooth or wonder if you’ve been grinding your teeth at night.

There are several possible causes of one-sided jaw pain. Here, we’ll go over some of the main causes, note other symptoms to look for, and let you know when it might be time to see your doctor or dentist.

Should I be concerned?

Generally, jaw pain on one side doesn’t cause immediate concern. But in rare cases, it can be an early sign of a heart attack. Anyone can experience this symptom, but it does occur more commonly in women.

If you’re having a heart attack, you’ll likely have some other signs along with jaw pain, including:

These symptoms can develop suddenly or come on slowly, over several hours or days. If your jaw pain is accompanied by some of these symptoms, seek emergency treatment or have someone drive you to the hospital.

Common causes

Here’s a look at the most likely causes of jaw pain.

1. TMJ disorders

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders affect the joint that connects your skull and jaw. A disc separates the bones in this joint and helps it move properly. If the disc becomes misaligned or the joint is damaged, you could experience pain and other symptoms on one or both sides of your jaw.

Other symptoms of TMJ disorders include:

Multiple factors can contribute to TMJ disorders, so it’s not always easy to find a specific cause.

Issues known to play a part in TMJ disorders include:

If you have symptoms of a TMJ disorder, talk to your healthcare provider or dentist to figure out the underlying cause.

2. Sinusitis

Inflammation in your nasal cavities can causes sinusitis. This tends to happen if you’ve had a cold, but allergies and other medical conditions can also contribute to sinusitis.

If the sinus cavities behind your cheeks, known as the maxillary sinuses, are inflamed, you might feel pain in one or both sides of your jaw.

Other symptoms of sinusitis include:

Sinusitis often clears up on its own, but it may be worth checking in with your healthcare provider if lasts more than a week.

3. Dental problems

Pain on one side of your jaw can often be traced to dental or oral health concerns.

Common dental problems that cause jaw pain include:

If dental issues are to blame, you’ll likely have additional symptoms, such as:

Facial swelling and fever along with severe tooth pain may indicate an abscess. Call your dentist or healthcare provider right away for these symptoms, especially if breathing and swallowing become difficult.

Rare causes

These issues aren’t very common, but they may lead to pain on one side of your jaw. If there isn’t a clear reason for your pain, your healthcare provider may want to rule out these causes.

4. Trigeminal neuralgia

This chronic condition generally results from abnormal pressure on the trigeminal nerve. This pressure can prevent the nerve from functioning properly, leading to severe pain. An injury or brain abnormality can also cause the condition.

Trigeminal neuralgia is most common in women and people above the age of 50. The primary symptom is severe pain that usually occurs on one side of your face.

This pain may:

Pain is often brief but excruciating. It may not respond to over-the-counter medications, but your healthcare provider can recommend other treatments, including prescription medication.

5. Osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis is an uncommon but serious type of bone infection that develops when bacteria enter bone.

Your jawbone could become infected after dental surgery, if you have a serious dental health issue, or if your mouth is injured in some way. Conditions that affect your immune health can also increase your risk.

This infection can spread and cause bone death. Prompt treatment with antibiotics can help prevent serious complications, so it’s important to get medical care if you have:

6. Tumors and cysts

These two types of growth differ. Tumors are masses of tissue and cysts generally contain fluid. Either can cause pain in your jaw, though both are somewhat rare.

Often, they aren’t cancerous, but they can still have an impact on oral health. They may grow quickly, causing your teeth to move out of place and destroying bone and tissue in your jaw and mouth.

Some of the more common tumors and cysts include that can affect your mouth include:

Not all cysts or tumors cause symptoms, but you could experience the following, along with persistent pain in your jaw:

Treatment depends on the type of growth and its cause, but early detection and medical care can improve the chances of successful treatment.

Tips for relief

If you have mild or temporary pain in your jaw, you may not need medical treatment. If the cause isn’t serious, the pain usually improves once the issue clears up.

In the meantime, these approaches can help you manage it:

When to see a doctor

Although jaw pain isn’t always serious, pain accompanied by certain symptoms could point to a more serious condition that requires treatment.

You may want to consider seeing your healthcare provider or dentist if the pain sticks around for more than a few days or seems to clear up and come back.

Here are some other signs it may be time to get a medical professional’s opinion:

A high fever, extreme pain, or swelling that affects your ability to breathe and swallow are all serious symptoms that require prompt treatment.If you have jaw pain with these symptoms, it’s best to head to urgent care instead of waiting for an appointment with your healthcare provider. If you don’t already have a dentist, our Healthline FindCare tool can help you connect to physicians in your area.