The exteroceptive suppression periods (ES) in human jaw-closing muscles can be conditioned by a wide range of somatosensory stimuli and cognitive states. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of tonic experimental jaw-muscle pain versus remote muscle pain on the short-latency (ES1) and long-latency (ES2) reflex in the jaw-closing muscles. Twelve healthy subjects participated in the first experiment with jaw-muscle pain. In random order 5% hypertonic or 0.9% isotonic saline was infused into the left masseter muscle for 15 min. The pain intensity was scored continuously by the subjects on a 10-cm visual analogue scale (VAS). Electromyographic (EMG) activity was recorded bilaterally from the masseter and temporalis muscles during the pre-infusion, early phase of infusion (from 120 to 480 s), late phase of infusion (from 540 to 900 s) and post-infusion. An electrical stimulus was delivered to the skin above the left mental nerve (ipsilateral to the painful muscle) to evoke the ES in the contracting jaw-closing muscles. Ten healthy subjects participated in experiment 2 which was as identical to experiment 1 except that the electrical stimulus was delivered to the right mental nerve (contralateral to the painful muscle). Nine healthy subjects participated experiment 3 where remote muscle pain was induced in the left tibialis anterior muscle. In experiment 1 painful infusion of hypertonic saline caused a significantly later onset latency of ES2 in the left masseter muscle during the late phase of infusion compared to pre-infusion values (P < 0.05). The duration of ES2 in the same muscle was significantly shorter during the late infusion phase compared to pre- and post-infusion values (P < 0.05) and the degree of suppression was significantly reduced during the early infusion compared to the pre-infusion values (P < 0.05). Isotonic saline did not influence the ES1 or ES2. In experiment 2, similar significant inhibitory changes were found in the ES2 on the painful side. In experiment 3, no significant effects on ES1 and ES2 were observed during painful infusion of hypertonic saline into the leg muscle. These results indicate that the effects of tonic jaw-muscle pain on ES2 can be distinguished from a generalized effect of muscle pain. Furthermore, there seems to be a differential and lateralized effect of jaw-muscle pain on the brain stem reflex circuits involved in the generation of ES1 and ES2 probably through a presynaptic mechanism.