Jaw pain while yawning or chewing

Jaw pain while yawning or chewing

Have you noticed ongoing jaw pain while yawning? About 15% of Americans suffer from severe facial pain. Over half of patients exhibit symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder, also known as TMJ. TMJ dysfunction disrupts the natural and harmonious movement of the facial bones, muscles, and ligaments. 

What is TMJ dysfunction or disorder?

TMJ stands for “temporomandibular joint”. Each person has two of these joints located just below the ears, near the lower jawbone (mandible). The joints connect the lower jaw to the temporal bone of the skull.  

These joints move rotationally and transitionally which allows for opening the mouth. The TMJ also has many other daily functions such as chewing, biting, and yawning. 

Temporomandibular disorders, or TMD, is a catch-all description of many different problems of the jaw joints. 

Why does TMJ disorder cause jaw pain while yawning or chewing?

TMJ disorder disrupts the harmonious flow of movement between the jaw muscles, bones, and tissues of the face. This dysfunction can manifest as painful sensations when opening the mouth, or chewing food. 

In addition, the muscles around the TMJs become strained because they are trying to correct the misalignment of the jaw. Overwork can cause swelling, and nerves become irritated as well. 

Some foods or candies can be harder than others on the jaw. The repetitive motion of chewing gum is one of the most common causes of TMJ pain. Eating hard, chewy foods such as nuts and hard candies can also increase the pain in the jaw. It’s wise to avoid these foods to prevent a TMJ flare-up. 

TMJ disorder sufferers can experience a sudden or rapid onset of jaw pain while eating. Some patients keep a food log to help determine which food triggers their pain. 

The medical community attributes many causes of this disorder. Some TMJ disorders may be caused by traumatic injury to the face or joints, bruxism, stress, or arthritis. Trauma or damage to the joints causes jaw pain while yawning. 

Generalized arthritis will also affect the jaw joints.  Rheumatoid arthritis is often associated with hand and wrist pain, but it can affect TMJ joint health and cause pain and discomfort.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

Do home remedies work?

While there are a few home remedies for relieving jaw pain and muscle tension, these remedies are not long-term solutions. It’s best to see a dentist who is highly qualified and experienced in TMJ pain, such as Dr. Fondriest, so he can help you determine how to move forward.  


When muscle contractions are to blame, BOTOX injections can be helpful. The neurotoxin is injected into jaw muscles. The solution forces muscles to relax. This can prevent nighttime clenching of your jaw. BOTOX injections are not a permanent solution. To remain effective, the toxin must be injected every few months.


Biofeedback uses technology to give unbiased physiological feedback to individuals. By wearing monitors and observing physical behavior, patients can make subtle changes to their behavior.

Counseling for life balance and stress relief

If stress is causing nighttime jaw clenching, daytime therapy may be what you need. Our doctor can recommend a good counselor.

Anti Inflammatory Medication

An anti inflammatory drug may be used to treat muscle pain temporarily. Many use this option to relax muscles and decrease discomfort. 

Jaw exercises for jaw pain while yawning

Daily jaw exercises are also a common home remedy for TMJ pain. While these exercises have not been proven to be effective, some patients have reported seeing an improvement in the amount of pain they experience. 

Jaw exercises include opening and closing the mouth in multiple sets. Various exercises are used, including moving the jaw from side to side and having the tongue touch the roof of the mouth with the mouth open.

Mouth Guards

Mouthguards are also a home remedy that some patients swear by. The mouth guard is great for protection against jaw clenching and teeth grinding, which are two of the main causes of TMJ. 

Ice Packs 

Applying ice to the area can also temporarily relieve pain caused by TMJ. Once the cold and numbness wear off the pain often returns. 


Many find yoga sessions to be relaxing. There’s a meditative aspect that can add further benefits. Alternative treatments for jaw pain are known to be effective. Many such treatments, like acupuncture, have the benefit of being safe and non-invasive.

Heat Application for pain while yawning

While ice packs may work for some, other patients have reported that applying heat to the affected area can help alleviate TMJ symptoms. 

Eating Soft Foods

Often TMJ is triggered by overuse of the jaw muscles. This is especially apparent after eating hard, chewy foods. Eating softer foods can reduce the amount of work the jaw has to do in order to chew the food. If you tend to chew on one side of your mouth, evenly distributing how you chew can help. 

How can a dentist help with jaw pain while yawning?

Scheduling an examination with a dentist is the first step to diagnosing the issue and creating a treatment plan. The dentist will conduct an examination and observe how your jaw opens and closes. The dentist will also ask questions to see how often you’re experiencing jaw pain while yawning and if you are aware of anything that triggers it.

Patients should bring a list of symptoms. Questions that you should be able to answer may include:

  • When did your discomfort first begin?
  • Is the discomfort consistent or intermittent?
  • What triggers bouts of discomfort?
  • Do you have any other medical conditions?
  • Have you had TMJ treatments before?
  • Have home remedies been effective?
  • Is clenching or grinding a normal occurrence?
  • Do you have pain while chewing?

Some options that may be discussed include using a dental appliance. The appliance plate works to prevent your upper and lower teeth from touching at night. This device is especially helpful for those patients that grind their teeth while sleeping.

The oral appliance (oral splint) is not the same thing as a mouthguard. The splint must be made under the supervision of a doctor. Special measurements will need to be made, and a lab will fabricate the splint.

The uneven bite caused by tooth loss on one side can cause TMJ pain. Our doctor can have you fitted with a denture, bridge, or implant. Restored bite balance can help you regain comfort and ease when chewing or yawning.

If the dentist determines that there are more serious issues with the jaw, then surgery may be suggested. The need for oral surgeons is rare and reserved for extreme cases when all other options have been exhausted or deemed to be ineffective.

How can I learn more about jaw pain while yawning?

While you may have endured jaw pain for years, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be treated or alleviated. You do have options and we would like to help you determine which one is the best for you. 

If you have jaw pain while yawning and are concerned that you may have TMJ disorder, consider seeking dental work treatment with Dr. James Fondriest. He will provide medical advice to address your individual needs.

To schedule an appointment, call our Chicago dentist’s office at (847) 234-0517. We serve residents of Chicago and the surrounding cities.