Drinking alcohol is typically meant to be an enjoyable social experience. However, some people may have their time spent enjoying alcohol and the company of others interrupted by a stabbing pain in their jaw. This can be a concerning symptom that causes many to wonder what is causing sharp pain in the jaw when drinking.
Listed below are 7 common causes of jaw pain that can occur when drinking alcohol, which can help you understand what might be contributing to your jaw pain. When in doubt, an online doctor is a great way to diagnose and treat the cause of your jaw pain.
Why Does My Jaw Hurt When I Drink Alcohol?
There are two main categories that alcohol-induced jaw pain can be separated into. The first is conditions that are caused by drinking alcohol. This can include an allergic reaction to the alcohol or a sensitivity to the acidity of the alcoholic beverage.
The other category is conditions that exist on their own but are worsened by alcohol. This may be because alcohol irritates the condition, such as a mouth sore or TMJ.
Common Causes of Jaw Pain When Drinking Alcohol
There are many potential causes of jaw pain when drinking alcohol, with the most common causes described below:
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders are a range of conditions that affect the jaw joints and surrounding ligaments and muscles.
The most common symptoms of TMJ include:
- jaw pain
- facial pain
TMJ can result from various reasons, including arthritis, trauma, an improper bite, and general wear and tear. While these are some causes of TMJ, research is finding that alcohol can worsen TMJ symptoms, with a study finding that those who consumed alcohol at least once a week experienced facial pain, TMJ pain (both when resting and moving the jaw), and TMJ clicking.
Alcoholic neuropathy occurs when drinking too much alcohol damages nerve tissue. This damage occurs because alcohol can alter the amount of thiamine, niacin, folate, vitamin E, and vitamins B6 and B12 in the body, which are essential for proper nerve function. For some individuals, alcoholic neuropathy may cause pain and tingling in the jaw, while continued drinking of alcohol can cause it to affect more areas of the body.
Alcohol can contribute to dental problems such as bad breath, dry mouth, periodontal disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss. This is because alcohol disrupts the balance of bacteria in the mouth, destroying good bacteria and allowing harmful bacteria to thrive. This increases the risk of disease, damage, and infection in the mouth. If the damage becomes deep enough, such as with tooth decay or periodontal disease, the jaw can experience pain.
Alcohol allergies are rare, but they are typically severe in those who experience them.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction include:
- itchy mouth, eyes, or nose
- wheezing or difficulty breathing
- swelling of the face, throat, or other body parts
- nausea or vomiting
- dizziness or loss of consciousness
While jaw pain can be a symptom of an allergic reaction, it is often not the only one. Additionally, an allergic reaction requires immediate medical attention.
A salivary stone is a hardened mineral deposit that forms in the salivary glands. In most cases, they form in the submandibular salivary glands, which are located around the jaw. While alcohol is not a cause of salivary stones, they may result from dehydration, which is common in those who drink alcohol.
Typically, salivary stones produce pain that worsens when eating or anticipating eating. If the stone blocks the duct, the gland may become infected and cause sialadenitis.
Sores In Mouth
Alcohol often worsens any sores or ulcers in the mouth, making them worse. This may be because regularly drinking alcohol leads to more “bad” bacteria in the mouth, which can contribute to infection.
Reaction To Acidity
Some people may have an adverse reaction to the acidity of alcohol, causing heartburn, a common condition that occurs when the stomach acids rise into the esophagus. This can cause chest pain that may radiate to the neck, jaw, or throat.
What To Do About Jaw Pain When Drinking Alcohol?
If you experience jaw pain when drinking alcohol, the first step is to stop drinking alcohol. Then, it is important to gauge where the pain is and if there are any additional symptoms. Most conditions can be managed by conservative treatments such as pain relievers, applying heat, drinking less alcohol, and eating softer foods.
For those with jaw pain due to dental problems such as tooth decay or periodontal disease, it is crucial to see a dentist to treat the condition and prevent further damage.
When To See a Doctor?
If you notice any severe symptoms that persist even when you are not drinking alcohol, it is wise to visit a doctor and determine the cause.
If you drink alcohol and experience any signs of an allergic reaction, it is vital to seek immediate medical attention. Allergic reactions to alcohol are rare, but they are typically severe when they occur, so it is important not to hesitate.
Get Help from An Online Doctor
Online doctors are an excellent resource for determining the cause of your jaw pain. With DrHouse, you can meet with an online doctor within 15 minutes to describe your jaw pain and other symptoms. From the comfort of your home, your doctor can recommend treatments and prescribe medications to help address your symptoms and prevent future occurrences.
Those who experience jaw pain when drinking alcohol are often separated into two categories: conditions resulting from alcohol and conditions exacerbated by alcohol. For most of these conditions, simply discontinuing alcohol consumption can go a long way in relieving someone of jaw pain.
Additional actions such as taking pain relievers and applying moist heat can also help clear up these conditions. However, some conditions, such as dental problems, may require a doctor to treat. An online doctor is a convenient resource to help determine the cause of jaw pain and recommend treatments that will help relieve symptoms and prevent future occurrences.
- Miettinen, O., Anttonen, V., Patinen, P., Päkkilä, J., Tjäderhane, L., & Sipilä, K. (2017). Prevalence of Temporomandibular Disorder Symptoms and Their Association with Alcohol and Smoking Habits. Journal Of Oral &Amp; Facial Pain And Headache, 31(1), 30-36. https://doi.org/10.11607/ofph.1595
- Chopra, K., & Tiwari, V. (2012). Alcoholic neuropathy: possible mechanisms and future treatment possibilities. British Journal Of Clinical Pharmacology, 73(3), 348-362. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2125.2011.04111.x
- Fan, X., Peters, B., Jacobs, E., Gapstur, S., Purdue, M., & Freedman, N. et al. (2018). Drinking alcohol is associated with variation in the human oral microbiome in a large study of American adults. Microbiome, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40168-018-0448-x
- Kraaij, S., Karagozoglu, K., Kenter, Y., Pijpe, J., Gilijamse, M., & Brand, H. (2015). Systemic diseases and the risk of developing salivary stones: a case control study. Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology And Oral Radiology, 119(5), 539-543. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.oooo.2015.01.010
- Heartburn or heart attack?. (2022). Retrieved 13 June 2022, from https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/angina-chest-pain/heartburn-or-heart-attack
DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.