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TMJ and Ear Pain – What You Need To Know

TMJ and ear pain, man holding head

Do you experience pain in your ear, jaw, or face? If so, you may have a TMJ disorder and TMJ ear pain.

TMJ disorder is a condition that affects the temporomandibular joint, which is the joint that connects your jaw to your skull. This joint is responsible for many activities, such as chewing and speaking.

When it becomes dysfunctional, TMJ disorders can cause various symptoms, including jaw pain, ear pain and headaches. This blog post will discuss the symptoms, causes, and treatment of TMJ dysfunction and how to get relief from your TMJ ear pain.

The TMJ and ear pain

TMJ disorders and ear pain are often connected because they share a common nerve path. The trigeminal nerve is responsible for sensations in the face, mouth, and jaw. It also innervates the muscles of mastication, which are the muscles used for chewing.

TMJ anatomy Mayo Clinic

The trigeminal nerve divides into three branches: the ophthalmic nerve (V1), the maxillary nerve (V2), and the mandibular nerve (V3). The V3 branch innervates the muscles of mastication as well as the TMJ.

Pain in the ear, on the other hand, is typically caused by irritation or inflammation of the nerves in the ear.

However, because the trigeminal nerve also innervates the ear, TMJ dysfunction can sometimes lead to ear pain. Therefore, treatment for TMJ-related ear pain typically involves managing the TMJ disorder itself. This may include lifestyle changes, behavioral therapy, and physical therapy.

In some cases, medications or surgery may be necessary. If you are experiencing chronic ear pain, it is essential to see a doctor so that they can determine whether or not TMJ is the cause.

What is TMJ/TMD (Temporomandibular joint dysfunction)?

TMJ (temporomandibular joint) refers to the two joints connecting the lower jaw to the skull’s temporal bones. TMD (temporomandibular disorder) is a catch-all term for any condition or injury that affects these joints.

Symptoms of TMD

  • pain around the jaw, ear, or face
  • clicking or popping sounds when moving the jaw
  • difficulty opening or closing the mouth
  • headaches
  • tinnitus
  • pain with chewing or talking

TMJ disoders contribute to 17.8 million lost work days

Treatment for ear and jaw pain

In many cases, TMD can be treated with home remedies such as over-the-counter pain medication, natural pain remedies, and ice packs. Other treatment modalities include:

  • Home exercises can also be very effective at relieving pain and pressure
  • Mouth guards that are either OTC or prescribed explicitly by a dentist or doctor
  • Surgery in severe cases may be necessary
  • Physical therapy and chiropractic care

If you are experiencing jaw and pain in the ear, you must talk to your doctor to rule out any other potential causes of your symptoms.

Ear infection versus TMJ disorders

There are some common symptoms between an ear infection and ear pain from TMJ. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain in and around the ear
  • Tinnitus
  • Headaches

However, one of the most common causes of the jaw and ear pain is an infection of the middle ear, also known as otitis media. This type of infection is usually caused by a build-up of fluid behind the eardrum, which can become infected with bacteria or viruses.

Doctor looking for ear infection

Otitis media is often accompanied by other symptoms such as:

  • fever
  • decreased hearing
  • pressure in the ear
  • dizziness
  • vomiting

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is essential to see a doctor so that you can receive treatment. Untreated ear infections can cause serious complications, such as hearing loss or damage to the eardrum.

Diagnosis of TMJ ear pain

There are a few ways to diagnose TMJ and ear pain.

First, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. They will then do a physical examination, during which they will feel for tenderness in your jaw and check your range of motion.

Your doctor may also order imaging tests, such as an MRI or CT scan, to look closely at your jaw joint.

Finally, your doctor may refer you to a specialist, such as an otolaryngologist or oral surgeon, for further evaluation.

Once TMJ disorder with jaw and ear pain are diagnosed, your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan. Lifestyle changes include avoiding hard foods or eating soft foods instead; splint or mouth guard therapy; physical therapy; or, in some cases, surgery.

Ear drops for pain in ear TMJ

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get rid of ear pain from TMJ?

TMJ disorders can cause various symptoms, including jaw, neck, and shoulders pain and tinnitus or ringing in the ears. In some cases, TMJ can also cause ear pain due to inflammation of the temporomandibular joint.

When inflamed, this joint can pressure the nerves and blood vessels that pass through it, causing pain in the ear. Treatment for TMJ-related ear pain typically focuses on reducing inflammation and relieving pressure on the affected nerves.

Combining over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy exercises, and lifestyle changes can help alleviate pain. However, surgery may be necessary to correct the underlying problem in severe cases.

What does TMJ ear pain feel like?

One of the most common symptoms of TMJ is ear pain. This pain can feel like a dull ache, or a sharp, shooting pain. It is often worse when you open your mouth wide or chew hard foods.

The pain can also worsen when you lie down, making it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. In addition to ear pain, you may also experience tinnitus or ringing in the ears from the inflammation of the jaw joint, which can be very annoying.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you must see a doctor to rule out other causes of ear pain, such as an ear infection. Only a trained medical professional can adequately diagnose TMJ, so don’t hesitate to seek help if you are concerned about your symptoms.

TMJ pain woman

Can TMJ affect one ear?

TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder, is a condition that can cause a lot of pain and discomfort. One of the most common symptoms is a pain in the jaw, which can radiate to other parts of the face, including the ears.

TMJ is one of the most common causes of ear pain and can affect one or both ears. The pain is usually worse when eating or talking and can be very annoying.

Does TMJ ear pain go away?

Many people experience occasional pain in their jaw or ears. This pain is often related to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), a condition that affects the joints that connect the lower jaw to the skull.

In some cases, TMJ ear pain goes away on its own. However, the pain is chronic and can be debilitating for many people.

Several treatments are available for TMJ ear pain, including medication, physical therapy, and surgery.

Can TMJ make your ears feel clogged?

TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder, is a condition that can cause pain and discomfort in your jaw and face. In some cases, it can also lead to ear pain and a feeling of fullness or pressure in your ears because the TMJ is located right next to your ear canal.

When it is not functioning correctly, it can cause the muscles and tissues around your ear to become inflamed.

When you have TMJ, you may unconsciously clench or grind your teeth, which can also put pressure on your ear and lead to pain. If you think you may have TMJ, it is essential to see a doctor or dentist so they can diagnose and treat the condition.

In most cases, TMJ can be successfully managed with a combination of lifestyle changes and treatment options.

TMJ pain with redness woman

Can an ear infection make your cheek hurt?

Ear infections are a common childhood ailment but can also affect adults. The pain from an ear infection can radiate to other parts of the head, including the cheek.

The trigeminal nerve, which controls facial sensation, also runs through the ear canal.

When the ear is infected, inflammation can worsen TMJ and cause pain in the cheek area. In some cases, the ear infection may even cause Bell’s palsy, a paralysis of facial muscles on one side of the face.

While most ear infections resolve independently, severe or recurring conditions may require antibiotics. So if you’re experiencing cheek pain along with other symptoms of an ear infection, be sure to see your doctor.

Does Covid 19 cause a blocked ear?

TMJ and ear pain are common symptoms of Covid 19. The virus causes inflammation and swelling in the tissues around the jaw, which can lead to TMD. This can, in turn, cause ear pain and tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing sound in the ears.

In severe cases, Covid 19 can also cause hearing loss. While these symptoms are most commonly seen in adults, children can also experience them.

If you or your child develop TMJ or ear pain, it is essential to see a doctor immediately, as they may indicate Covid 19.

How long does TMJ ear pain last?

TMJ disorders can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including ear pain. The pain may be dull and constant, or it may be sharp and come and go. It can also accompany other symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

In most cases, TMJ ear pain will improve with at-home treatment. However, if the pain is severe or lasts for more than a week, it’s essential to see a doctor or dentist for an evaluation.

Doctors and dentists can rule out other potential causes of your symptoms and develop a treatment plan to relieve your pain. 

How long do TMJ flare-ups last?

TMJ flare-ups can last for various periods, depending on the individual and the severity of their condition.

For some people, the pain and discomfort may only last for a few days or weeks, while others may experience chronic flare-ups that come and go over months or even years.

However, most TMJ flare-ups will resolve independently with no permanent damage. However, you must talk to your doctor or dentist about potential treatment options if you struggle with frequent or severe outbreaks.

In some cases, TMJ and ear pain medication can help to reduce symptoms and prevent future problems. However, surgery is usually only recommended in severe cases where other treatments have failed.

Can teeth grinding cause blocked ears?

photo of tmj night guard cleaning

Teeth grinding or bruxism is a common problem that can cause various symptoms. One of the less well-known side effects of teeth grinding is ear pain.

Teeth grinding can lead to TMJ or temporomandibular joint disorder. TMJ can cause a clicking or popping sound when you open your mouth, as well as pain and stiffness in the jaw.

Ear pain is often a result of this TMJ, as the muscles and ligaments around the jaw can pressure the nerves that lead to the ear. If you’re experiencing frequent ear pain, it might be worth considering whether teeth grinding could be the cause.

It’s always best to consult a doctor to get a definitive diagnosis.

Conclusion

Ear pain and TMJ are often related. However, you can do a few things to help relieve the pain. 

See your dentist or primary care physician if the pain doesn’t disappear. They may be able to help lessen the pain or refer you to another specialist who can help treat the problem.

Ear pain and TMJ can be frustrating conditions that often cause significant discomfort. However, there are things you can do to help relieve the symptoms associated with each condition.

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This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider.

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