You’ve been sneezing, coughing, or congested, or maybe some terrible combination of all three. You fall asleep with your mouth open just so you can breathe, and then wake up in the morning with a dry mouth and a sore throat. And on top of all that, you realize that your jaw is sore. Has this ever happened to you?
When asked to name symptoms of the common cold, most people would be more likely to name a cough or a runny nose before they’d name jaw pain. But jaw pain accompanies these other unpleasant symptoms more often than you’d think!
Despite being a normal side effect of a cold or sinus infection, jaw pain is still nothing to sneeze at. It’s important to make sure your jaw pain isn’t a symptom of a larger problem, like TMJ, before writing it off as just another cold symptom.
How Sickness Can Cause Jaw Pain
Coughing once or twice doesn’t usually hurt the throat, but coughing all day can make it sore and sensitive. In the same way, frequent coughing and sneezing, which force the mouth open, can cause jaw soreness simply due to the strain of overuse and muscle tension.
And of course, if congestion is causing you to breathe through your mouth during sleep, maintaining that open, strained position all night can easily trigger jaw pain.
But that’s not all — when your sinuses get inflamed as a result of illness or infection, that inflammation can result in jaw pain, too. Your sinuses are all over your head and face, including right next to the ear, and next to the temporomandibular joint. Pressure in the sinuses can in turn put pressure on your jaw. For this reason, jaw pain and tooth pain is a frequent symptom of a sinus infection.
Could It Be TMJ?
If you’re experiencing mild jaw pain in conjunction with a cold or a sinus infection, it could be nothing to worry about. But sometimes factors like the common cold can aggravate TMJ symptoms, or TMJ can even masquerade as sinus trouble.
People who have TMJ but haven’t yet been diagnosed may be writing off TMJ symptoms like headaches, tinnitus, or bruxism as unrelated. But TMJ can easily worsen over time if untreated. An experience like a cold that aggravates an already-inflamed temporomandibular joint could be the wakeup call that some people need to get checked out for TMJ.
Of course, it may not be a sinus infection at all. TMJ is often described or diagnosed as myofascial pain syndrome because of the way that it can cause pain throughout the fascia–layers of muscle and connective tissue under the skin–including the sinus area. For this reason, symptoms of TMJ are often confused with sinus pain and sinus headaches.
If you’re experiencing extreme or protracted jaw pain alongside a cold or sinus infection, if you have problems you just can’t seem to kick, or if you have other symptoms of TMJ alongside your jaw pain, an experienced dentist like Dr. Rod Strober in San Diego can investigate.