Pregnancy can bring many changes and challenges to your body, and in some cases, women may find themselves dealing with mysterious and annoying jaw pain. For expecting patients out there who are struggling with mouth and/or jaw soreness during their pregnancy period, you don’t have to feel stranded: We’ve got the answers you seek right here! Explained ahead is everything you need to know regarding what could cause this issue while carrying a baby — including treatments or ways to manage it that have been proven beneficial for other moms-to-be going through the same thing.
But first, how do I know all of this? Hi — I’m Hilary — The Pregnancy Nurse 👩⚕️. I have been a nurse since 1997 and I have 20 years of OB nursing experience, I am also the curly head behind Pulling Curls and The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. 🩺 I have had a lot of patients mention to me that their jaw has been hurting and have talked them through the reasons it might be happening and what they should do – so I’m a good one to talk about this.
One of the BIGGEST causes of jaw pain is stress. If you’re stressed out about your delivery and what will happen there, come join me in The Online Prenatal Class for Couples — in just a few hours we can help you be prepared!
This (or any article on The Pregnancy Nurse) should be taken as medical advice, this purely educational. Please talk with your provider about your specific needs and circumstances.
Can pregnancy affect your jaw?
Yes, pregnancy can affect your jaw. Hormonal changes in the body during pregnancy can lead to an increased risk of TMJ disorder or temporomandibular joint dysfunction which is a problem with the jaw’s hinge joint. This can cause pain and discomfort in the jaw area, as well as popping or clicking sounds when opening and closing the mouth.
This study showed that women tend to have more TMD issues, and there may be increased estrogen receptors in your jaw area (as compared to men). Pretty interesting. It also shows that there is a LOT of feedback that pregnant women have more sounds (clicking or popping) in their jaw during their pregnancy.
Pro Tip: Pregnancy hormones allow the joints in your pelvis to loosen so that baby can exit when the time comes — this affects ALL of your joints which includes your jaw, hands, hips and more!
What are the causes of jaw pain while pregnant?
The most common causes of jaw pain during pregnancy may include:
- TMJ disorder (temporomandibular joint dysfunction)
- muscle tension and stress
- hormone shifts within the body
- lack of calcium in one’s diet.
It’s important to note that these can also be caused by non-pregnancy factors as well, but they are more common while expecting.
How to relieve jaw pain while pregnant
If you’re feeling jaw discomfort while carrying your little one, there are thankfully a few things that can bring some relief:
1. Apply an ice pack or moist heat to the affected area (whichever one helps relieve it)
2. Perform gentle massage on the neck, jaw and facial muscles with a soft cloth or your own hands. A full upper body massage may be helpful as well.
3. Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga and meditation to reduce stress.
4. Eat a healthy balanced diet with plenty of calcium-rich foods and drink plenty of fluids (check out my healthy eating section)
5. Visit your dentist for an evaluation to rule out other causes of jaw pain or TMJ disorder that may require treatment from a professional. It could also possibly be a toothache that is causing the pain and you’d definitely want that looked at.
6. Wear a mouthguard at night to prevent teeth grinding or clenching while sleeping.
7. Practice jaw exercises and stretches, such as opening and closing your mouth very slowly several times a day, to help your jaw muscles relax. Like these:
8. Avoid chewing gum or hard foods that put extra stress on your jaw muscles.
9. Consider using an over-the-counter pain relief medication if recommended by your doctor.
Yes, a LOT of the causes were from stress — so take this to help ease some of that today!
When to see a doctor about jaw pain while pregnant
If it is currently mild, I would mention it to your provider at your next appointment.
If the pain is a LOT I’d call the office to see what they recommend (or call your dentist). They can provide further insight into why this is happening and offer an individualized treatment plan for your specific situation.
If you are feeling severe jaw pain, you should seek medical attention right away.
What are the risks associated with jaw pain during pregnancy
Although jaw pain during pregnancy is usually not a serious concern, it may be an indication of something more severe. If left untreated, this pain can lead to long-term discomfort and even cause issues with the chewing muscles or joint in your jaw.
The biggest risk is that you have an issue with your teeth. Endodontic issues during pregnancy can lead to preterm labor (see the study here).
Mostly it’s just one more thing that is annoying about pregnancy — so, if you can work to alleviate it, it might be worth it. Your doctor may even prescribe physical therapy visit to see if they have any recommendations.
How to prevent jaw pain during pregnancy?
The best way to prevent jaw pain during pregnancy is to practice good habits from the start.
This includes following a healthy diet, avoiding stressful situations, getting plenty of rest and relaxation, avoiding chewing gum and hard foods that put extra strain on your jaw muscles, and wearing a mouthguard at night while sleeping to avoid teeth grinding or clenching.
Additionally, it is important to visit your dentist for regular checkups and evaluations to ensure that you don’t have any underlying issues or dental problems that could be causing the jaw pain.
Yes, you should visit your dentist during your pregnancy to have your teeth checked. Tooth and gum health is VERY important during pregnancy. They will likely not take x-rays if necessary, but they will mostly check to make sure your teeth and gums are healthy (and you are likely not going to be going back to the dentist for a bit after baby is born, so now is a smart time to get that checkup in!). Many people are hesitant to visit the dentist during pregnancy but it is important.
Is it normal to get toothaches during pregnancy?
Yes, it is normal to experience toothaches during pregnancy due to changing hormone levels and increased blood flow to the gums (which is why your gums may bleed more than normal).
The bottom line…
Jaw pain during pregnancy can be a nuisance but it doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying your pregnancy journey. Remember that if the discomfort persists, it is important to speak with your healthcare provider or dentist as soon as possible in order to get an individualized treatment plan for your specific situation. With the right care and attention, you can find relief from jaw pain during pregnancy.
And, come join me in The Online Prenatal Class for Couples where we’ll take that delivery stress off your jaw in a class that was designed to be quick, fun and on-budget for BOTH of you.
And, if you’re not quite sure you’re ready for that whole thing, check out my free prenatal class. It’s your first step toward getting in the driver’s seat of your birth.
- About the Author
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A nurse since 1997, she has worked in various fields including pediatrics, geriatrics & hospice.
She has 20 years of labor and delivery experience in the San Jose, CA and Phoenix, AZ areas.
She is also the curly head behind the website Pulling Curls and is the creator of The Online Prenatal Class for Couples — the #1 hospital-based prenatal class on the internet.