why does my jaw hurt when i wake up

Why does my jaw hurt when I wake up? Peculiar, isn’t it? But, you’re not alone in this daily quandary. Countless folks, just like you, begin their day wrestling with a stiff, aching jaw. Intriguingly, reasons abound—from nocturnal bruxism to misaligned sleeping postures. Some are benign, others need attention. So, let’s untangle this, shall we? Join me, as we delve into the realm of morning jaw discomfort, peeling back its many layers.

Waking up with a sore, stiff, or aching jaw can be an unpleasant and confusing symptom. This soreness or pain when opening your mouth in the morning has several potential causes:

# Teeth Grinding

Grinding or clenching your teeth while you sleep, known as bruxism, is one of the most common reasons for jaw discomfort upon waking. The pressure put on the temporomandibular joint and surrounding muscles throughout the night strains the jaw, leading to pain and soreness. Teeth grinding often worsens with stress.

# TMJ Disorders

Problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) itself can also lead to morning jaw pain. The TMJ is the hinge connecting the jaw bone to the skull. TMJ disorders involve this joint and the surrounding muscles and nerves. Activities like chewing or talking use these jaw muscles, so pain often worsens throughout the day.

# Sleep Position

Sleeping in a position that strains the neck and jaw, such as on your stomach, can put pressure on the TMJ. Using a very flat or thin pillow may also contribute to discomfort.

# Injuries and Medical Conditions

In some cases, conditions like arthritis, sinus infections, or jaw injuries can manifest as jaw pain when waking up or opening your mouth. Consulting a doctor is recommended.

# Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety often manifest physically with jaw clenching, tooth grinding, and morning jaw discomfort. Managing stress levels can help relieve these symptoms.

No matter the cause, waking up with jaw pain or soreness should not be ignored. Next, we’ll discuss ways to manage symptoms and stop morning jaw discomfort.

If you’re waking up with a sore, stiff, or painful jaw on a regular basis, here are some methods to help prevent and manage the discomfort:

# Use a Night Guard

Wearing a night guard, often called a bite splint or mouth guard, while you sleep cushions your teeth and prevents grinding. These can be purchased over the counter or custom-made by a dentist. Night guards are highly effective for bruxism.

# Try Physical Therapy

Physical therapy focuses on exercises, massage, and other techniques to strengthen the jaw muscles and support the TMJ. This can help with many causes of morning jaw pain.

# Improve Sleep Habits

Sleeping on your back or side with a supportive pillow for your head and neck helps reduce jaw tension. A relaxing pre-sleep routine and stress management can also improve sleep and reduce grinding.

# Use Heat/Ice Therapy

Applying hot or cold compresses to the sore jaw muscles can help relieve pain and stiffness. Use whatever feels best to you.

# Take Anti-Inflammatories

Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen can temporarily alleviate pain and swelling.

# See a Doctor or Dentist

For chronic, severe, or worsening jaw pain, consult your physician. They may refer you to a dentist or TMJ specialist for further evaluation and treatment.

Persisting morning jaw discomfort should be addressed promptly before it worsens.

Opening your mouth wide and feeling jaw pain can also stem from a few possible sources:

TMJ Disorders

One of the hallmark symptoms of TMJ disorders is pain when opening your mouth, especially wide. Damaged joints, dislocated jaw discs, and inflammation all contribute to this restricted, painful movement.

Tight Muscles

Repeated jaw clenching and teeth grinding can leave the jaw muscles tight and stiff. Attempting to open your mouth wide may spasm or strain these muscles, causing discomfort.

Dental Problems

Issues with your teeth alignment, bites that put uneven pressure on the jaw, or dental procedures can all make opening your mouth wide painful. Braces or dental work like fillings, crowns, and implants may cause temporary soreness.


Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis affecting the jaw joint and muscles limits mobility and leads to pain when opening wide. Jaw arthritis is not uncommon and typically worsens with age.

If jaw pain persists even with regular activities like eating, yawning, or brushing your teeth, consult your dentist or doctor to identify the cause. Targeted treatment will help manage the pain and improve use of your jaw.

Waking up with a sore or painful jaw and ear simultaneously often results from one main cause:

# TMJ Disorders

The temporomandibular joint connects the jaw bone to the skull in front of the ear. TMJ dysfunctions that affect the joint or muscles therefore frequently cause correlated ear pain and discomfort.

TMJ disorders range from inflammation in the joint to disc displacements. As the TMJ is used throughout the day for chewing and talking, pain may radiate to the ear. Grinding or clenching during sleep also aggravates symptoms.

# Additional TMJ symptoms with ear pain include:

  • Jaw stiffness or soreness
  • Clicking, popping, or grinding noises in the jaw
  • Headaches
  • Neck aches
  • Jaw tenderness or reduced mobility

Seeing a dentist or TMJ specialist is recommended for persistent ear and jaw pain that continues daily. Treatments like bite splints, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and stress reduction can help manage connected jaw and ear pain from TMJ disorders.

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders affect the joint connecting the jaw to the skull and the surrounding musculoskeletal system. Symptoms include:

  • Jaw pain – Soreness or aching in front of the ear and side of the face that worsens with chewing or talking.
  • Clicking, popping, or grinding – Noticeable sounds from the jaw joint when opening and closing the mouth.
  • Limited mobility – Difficulty fully opening or closing the mouth. The jaw may feel tight or stuck.
  • Headaches – Pain and pressure around the temple area on the affected side.
  • Ear pain – Feeling of stuffiness or soreness in one or both ears.
  • Neck and shoulder pain – Muscle tightness that develops over time due to imbalance.
  • Swollen jaw – Inflammation that may cause the joint area to look larger on one side.

TMJ disorders develop from a jaw injury, arthritis, misalignment of the teeth or bite, stress, and teeth grinding or clenching. Diagnosis typically involves a physical exam, a review of symptoms, and imaging tests. Addressing TMJ symptoms early is key to avoiding chronic pain.

Here are some simple home remedies that may help provide relief for jaw discomfort upon waking:

  • Cold or warm compresses – Place an ice pack or heating pad against the sore jaw muscles to reduce pain and inflammation. Use whichever feels best.
  • Massage – Gently massage the tight, painful facial and jaw muscles to help them relax.
  • Over-the-counter pain medication – Anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen can temporarily alleviate discomfort.
  • Soft foods – Stick to soft, easy-to-chew foods like soups, eggs, and smoothies to give your jaw a rest.
  • Stress relief – Try relaxing activities before bed like reading, meditation, or chamomile tea to reduce teeth grinding.
  • Proper sleep position – Sleep on your back or side with a supportive pillow to minimize jaw tension.

While these conservative home remedies may provide some relief for occasional morning jaw pain, regular or persistent symptoms should be evaluated by your dentist or doctor. Targeted treatment is needed to properly address the underlying cause.

Wearing a night guard or bite splint while sleeping can be highly effective for relieving jaw pain by protecting the teeth from grinding and clenching. Night guards work in two main ways:

  • Absorb grinding force – The guard fits over the teeth to act as a cushion and absorb some of the intense pressures placed on the jaw joints and muscles during grinding.
  • Prevent teeth contact – They keep the upper and lower teeth completely separated, preventing direct contact that contributes to jaw strain.

This allows the temporomandibular joint, facial muscles, and dental structures to rest overnight. Symptoms like soreness, headaches, tooth sensitivity, and jaw popping often improve significantly with consistent night guard use.

Over-the-counter night guards provide some protection, but custom-fitted guards prescribed by your dentist offer superior comfort and effectiveness. Night guards are non-invasive, low-risk, and one of the most successful treatments for bruxism and associated chronic jaw pain.

In summary, morning jaw discomfort is often caused by nighttime teeth grinding and can be managed with treatments like night guards, physical therapy, and medication. Seeking medical attention for persistent pain is recommended. Addressing related sleep problems, stress, and dental factors also provides relief by targeting the source of the issue.

1. What causes jaw pain when waking up?

The most common causes of jaw pain upon waking are teeth grinding (bruxism), TMJ disorders, poor sleep position/pillow, stress and anxiety, arthritis, dental problems, and injuries. The jaw is often clenched during sleep, leading to soreness.

2. Can sleeping wrong cause jaw pain?

Yes, sleeping in positions that strain the neck and jaw can contribute to morning jaw discomfort. Sleeping on your stomach or sides without a proper pillow doesn’t support the head and neck, putting pressure on the TMJ joint.

3. Can stress cause jaw pain when waking up?

Definitely. Stress and anxiety often lead to teeth grinding, clenching, and tension in the jaw muscles overnight. This strains the joint and tissues, resulting in morning jaw pain. Managing stress can help.

4. Can my pillow cause jaw pain?

Yes, using a pillow that is too thin or does not keep your head and neck aligned can cause jaw strain and discomfort. A supportive pillow that aligns your neck and gently cradles your head is best.

5. Can a tooth infection cause jaw pain in the morning?

It’s possible. A tooth abscess or infection in the mouth puts pressure on the jaw and surrounding tissues, which can radiate as jaw pain when you wake up. Seeing a dentist for treatment is recommended.

6. Is jaw pain a symptom of a heart attack?

While rare, jaw pain along with chest pressure, shortness of breath, sweating, and arm pain can indicate a heart attack. If concerned, seek emergency medical care right away.

7. Can wisdom teeth cause jaw pain?

Yes, impacted or erupting wisdom teeth commonly cause pain and inflammation that can radiate to the jaw. Extracting wisdom teeth typically resolves this discomfort.

8. Can alcohol or smoking cause jaw pain in the morning?

Both alcohol and tobacco use are linked to increased teeth grinding and clenching, particularly during sleep. This strains the jaw and results in morning pain.

9. Does coffee cause jaw pain?

Too much caffeine can increase anxiety, teeth grinding, and tension in the jaw muscles. Cutting back on coffee and caffeinated drinks may help reduce these effects.

10. Can dehydration cause jaw pain in the morning?

Dehydration can sometimes manifest as a dull ache or soreness in the jaw joint and muscles. Be sure to drink plenty of water, especially before bedtime.

11. How does arthritis affect jaw pain?

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis affect the jaw joint and muscles making it difficult to chew or open the mouth wide. The inflammation causes progressive joint damage and worsening pain.

12. Can dental work cause jaw pain in the morning?

Yes, dental procedures like fillings and root canals can leave the jaw feeling stiff, tight, and painful the next morning as the anesthetic wears off. This typically resolves within a few days.

13. Can jaw pain be a symptom of a sinus infection?

Yes, sinus pressure and inflammation from a sinus infection can put pressure on the jaw and manifest as tooth pain or soreness along the jawline. Antibiotics are needed for treatment.

14. Can a cold or flu cause jaw pain in the morning?

Viral illnesses like colds and flu can cause body aches and pains, including jaw soreness or achiness, from inflammation and sinus congestion. This should resolve as you recover.

15. Why does my jaw hurt after sleep but not during the day?

This points to nighttime teeth grinding as the likely culprit. Clenching and grinding often only occur during sleep when your muscles relax, leading to morning pain that fades as the day progresses.

Useful Links:

TMD (Temporomandibular Disorders)

Prevalence of TMJD and its Signs and Symptoms

Large-scale study sheds light on painful jaw disorder