TMJ Ear Pain
by Dr. Scott Bolding
Table of Contents
01. What is a TMJ Disorder?
02. How Do TMJ Disorders Cause Ear Pain?
03. How Do You Know If Your Ear Pain is Related to Your Jaw Joint?
04. How Do You Treat TMJ Ear Pain?
In order to make sure you’re getting the help you need, it’s important to understand how issues in the jaw joint can lead to ear pain. This involves understanding what TMJ disorders are and how they develop as well as the anatomy of the jaw joint. You can use this information to determine whether or not you think your ear pain is the result of a TMJ disorder. Then, you can talk to your doctor about treatment options.
What is a TMJ Disorder?
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. This joint connects your lower jaw to your skull. It allows you to open and close your mouth. When this joint becomes damaged or misaligned, it’s known as a TMJ disorder.
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Jaw joint pain is the most defining symptom of TMJ disorders. However, there are other symptoms to be aware of, such as headaches, clicking or popping in the joint, and, of course, ear pain.
What Causes TMJ Disorders?
There are many different causes of TMJ disorders. Injury, poor posture, and eating certain foods can put you at a higher risk of developing a TMJ disorder.
Stress is one of the most common causes. Our bodies respond to stress in a variety of ways. One way is by causing us to subconsciously grind our teeth and clench our jaws. Over time, this puts excess pressure on the joint. This leads to inflammation, which leads to pain.
Arthritis is another common cause of TMJ disorders. Since the jaw joint is like the other joints in the body, it can be affected by osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis.
How Do TMJ Disorders Cause Ear Pain?
The reason earaches are a common symptom of TMJ disorders has to do with the anatomy of the jaw joint.
The jaw joint is located very close to the ear canal. The nerves that surround the TMJ are many of the same sensory nerves that supply the ear as well. Because of this, the pain and inflammation in the TMJ can spread to the ear.
How Do You Treat TMJ Ear Pain?
In order to find relief from your TMJ ear pain, we need to treat the issues in your jaw joint. The specific treatment you need will depend on the severity of your TMJ disorder.
Most mild TMJ disorders can be treated conservatively. Conservative treatments include:
- Resting the joint
- Taking OTC pain medication (such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen)
- Heat/Ice therapy
Your doctor may also recommend a mouth guard for your TMJ disorder. These mouth guards are usually worn at night and help absorb the pressure caused by grinding and clenching.
If conservative treatments don’t work, TMJ surgery is also an option.
Get the Information You Need to Solve Your TMJ Ear Pain
Ear pain may not always be the first thing you think of when you think about TMJ disorders. However, because of how close your jaw joints are to your ears, issues in the TMJ can lead to ear pain. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor about your symptoms.
Having the right information can help you get to the bottom of both your ear pain and your jaw joint issues. If you want to read more about TMJ disorders, please check out our TMJ Center page.