Pain in side of my face when I eat
December 11, 2018 5:28 PM   Subscribe

AS we all know... yanmd. When I chew I experience discomfort (2/3 on the pain scale) from the top jaw along the side of face up to my left temple.

Sometimes it feels like it emanates from top left jaw, sometimes I feel it towards the ear, sometimes the temple or in between those areas.

The discomfort subsides pretty rapidly once I am done eating. Also, it is related to chewing in that the more chewing, the more discomfort. Soft food doesn't bother me.

Two questions:
1- It's irritating but I can live with it. Can I get away with ignoring it till April, when I have scheduled appointments with internist and dentist? Or is it possible that there is something behind it which would benefit from immediate attention?
2- What would be the right specialist to address this? Internist? Dentist? Ear nose throat person?
3- Bonus points to anyone who is not my doctor who has an idea what might be going on.

thank you!
posted by elf27 to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
I am most definitely not a doctor and am just musing out loud here. Does it feel like soft tissue pain (like swelling of sinuses which you’d need a doctor for) or more like the muscle/bones because the first thing I though was that your neck or jaw might be slightly out of alignment, which is why the chewing movement hurts so much. If you think this resonates, maybe try a physio. They might also be easier to get in to see than a doctor.
posted by Jubey at 5:34 PM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

This may not be your issue but I had a similar level of discomfort when I ate or when my chompers were shut.

Told the dentist, and it was because of shifting teeth or something like that, one of my teeth was jutting out a little more, so when my mouth was closed, there was more pressure, causing the discomfort.

The dentist just drilled away a very small amount off the surface, no numbing needed, solved my problem.
posted by Seboshin at 5:36 PM on December 11, 2018

It might be how you sit when you eat, and it is a pinched facial nerve emanating from the neck.
posted by Oyéah at 5:46 PM on December 11, 2018

Do you still have your wisdom teeth?

If yes, this would be a classic symptom of infection or impaction.

I think you shouldn't wait to get it looked at.
posted by jamjam at 6:01 PM on December 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

I am not in a position to diagnose over the internet, but the symptoms you describe seem muscular. There are several muscles that you use to chew. one runs from your lower jaw to just under your cheek bone and another from your lower jaw up past your ear to your temple. when those muscles get unhappy they present symptoms like what you are describing. Pain on chewing, pain that subsides when you stop chewing.

If you don't have swelling, a fever, or pain that begins in a particular tooth then it's less likely to be a tooth. if you do then see a dentist asap.

It might be related to the joint (TMJ) itself, but this is still well within the realm of what we (dentists) treat routinely, rather than what an ENT would treat.

It often doesn't matter what side the food is on, the muscles are still working, but if it's less painful to chew on the opposite side then do that. You've already said soft foods don't bother so soften your diet.

Muscular problems often go away with a week or so of softer diet unless there is an aggravating factor like a nighttime grinding habit.

It's okay to treat the symptoms (ice the area, keep the muscles loose, take appropriate otc pain relievers as directed, etc) and see how things respond.

Make an appointment if things persist or get worse (or change in some remarkable way)

Good Luck.
posted by OHenryPacey at 6:52 PM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Sounds like an infection up there. I had one once and it was not good. Get a dentist to look at it.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:14 PM on December 11, 2018

I have a little trouble with this, and the pain is in my trigeminal nerve. This nerve often acts up when I get a migraine, too.
posted by bryon at 11:13 PM on December 11, 2018

When I was in college, I started getting jaw pain just on my left side that eventually got bad enough that I couldn't chew properly because I couldn't close my jaw all the way. The good folks at MedExpress ultimately determined that it was just a weird kind of sinus issue (not an infection) and instructed me to pick up some OTC decongestant with the pseudophedrine. It worked!

Obviously, IANAD, but if the pain isn't super severe or scary for you just yet, it might be worth seeing how your jaw feels after a few days on decongestants before getting it checked out. Also, I'm not sure how long this has been happening for you, but giving it a few days and sticking with some less chewy foods might also help out if it ends up being an acute muscular issue.

If it's not feeling better after like a week or so though, it's probably better to get it checked out sooner rather than waiting it out until April.
posted by helloimjennsco at 6:41 AM on December 12, 2018

When I chew, my right jaw clicks. This usually isn't painful, but a few years back it started to become sore with chewing. And the more chewing, the more sore. And I was eating a lot of raw veggies at the time. I'd also say it was a 2-3 on a 10 point scale. My dentist said that he always refers to a physiotherapist and excluding very rare issues won't consider anything more invasive until the patient has gone through at least a year of physiotherapy as this almost either greatly helps or complete fixes the issue.

I did my physio, during which after examination I received massage, along with instructions for self massage and exercises. She said the clicking might not be reduced and likely would not go away, but the pain and soreness should go away. The pain/soreness receeded within 6 months. The clicking was reduced. With the recession of pain my physio said I was done there and to still keep up with the self-massage, but didn't need to do so as often. After about 3 months with no pain I stopped doing the exercises, and rarely do the self massage, but the pain has not come back after about 2.5 years.

This also helped a problem where I could causea a muscle spasm under my chin if I yawned too enthusiastically. Now, during big yawns if I feel that area get even the slightest bit of tension, I pick up the self-massage work again to keep it under control.
posted by nobeagle at 6:47 AM on December 12, 2018

Salivary gland stones. I have them and chewing/eating is when the most pain occurs. This is because when you eat your saliva glands generate ... saliva to start the digestive process but if there's a stone blocking the outlet of the gland it builds up and pushes against the opening and hurts like a mofo. I find it's worse when I'm eating things that are dry (drinking red wine, eating crackers, etc.) because more saliva wants to come out.

If the gland truly is blocked by the stone (and not just the stone rattling around there causing the flow to slow), you may find your jaw around your ear puffing up very rapidly, like you were punched there. Over time, this can cause infection. This is what got mine diagnosed when my jaw puffed up in the matter of a couple of hours.

Most stones come out on their own and you won't notice it. I was advised to keep hydrated and to suck on sour candies to try to generate more saliva and allow the stones to pass.
posted by marylynn at 4:35 PM on December 16, 2018

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