TMJ - TMD disorder can cause ear and jaw pain
Few types of pain can be as disorienting and troubling as ear pain. The discomfort can be magnified by the combination of ear and jaw pain together. The throbbing experience is stressful and frustrating as it greatly impacts one’s life.
Those who experience ear pain often suppose their ache and soreness is caused by an ear infection. If you’ve ever cared for a crying child tugging at his ear, you know that the diagnosis is most likely an ear infection. Additionally, the ear pain due to an infection is often accompanied by a fever. However, for adults, ear infections are not nearly as common as they are in children.
So, what’s causing the annoying ache in your ear?
Surprisingly, due to the close proximity of the ear to the temporomandibular (TMJ) joint, TMJ ear pain is often the source. Your lower jaw and skull rely on the joint to connect the two and for all its movement.
It is one of the most used joints in your body that you use frequently every single day. Every time you talk, chew, smile, laugh, yawn, and clench your teeth or jaw, you’re moving the temporomandibular joint on both sides of your face. It is located right in front of your ears on each side of your head.
Any problem that prevents the complex system of muscles, bones, and joints in your jaw and face – including around your ears - from working together in synchronicity may result in temporomandibular disorder.
If your primary care physician has ruled out an ear infection, caused by a virus or bacteria, your ear and jaw pain is often attributable to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
TMJ ear pain might be a dull and nagging ongoing irritation or it could be a sharp, searing pain. It may even cause minor spasms in some of the muscles in your face.
This area includes not only the jaw joint but also the muscles surrounding the temporomandibular joint along with the fascia and ligaments that hold the bones in place. The muscles and joint are intimately connected with the ear and nerves that supports the ear.
There is complexity and interconnectedness of all that is involved with movement of muscles and ligaments of your jaw, face, and mouth. So, when you have pain in one or both ears, it may be instinctive that there is something wrong with your ear. Rather, the ear pain, with or without accompanying jaw pain, is often a symptom of TMJ.
TMJ ear pain
TMJ ear pain results when the ligament is pinched or compressed between the jaw joint and the ear canal. The ligament and retrodiscal tissue have nerves, blood vessels and other small ligaments which can cause TMJ ear pain.
Many people with TMJ and ear symptoms have tinnitus which is presented by ringing or buzzing in the ears. Often the sound can vary from annoying to insufferable. Tinnitus can be the result of a TMJ disorder or compression of the ligament between the jaw joint and ear canal.
Ear pain can also be triggered by muscle pain in the jaw. This tissue is often a major contributor to the pain of the temporomandiabular disfunction (TMD), particularly when there is inflammation or compression within the jaw.
Often, the pain in one ear or both of them has been happening for several weeks or longer. The jaw pain by the ear may even come and go or worsen at night or in the morning. The pain and discomfort can also intensify when chewing or yawning. The ear and jaw pain can really wreak havoc with how one feels during the day and while sleeping.
Ear stuffiness or ear fullness
Very often, hearing hasn’t been affected but there may be a stuffy or clogged feeling in the ear.
In the absence of an ear or sinus infection, ear stuffiness or fullness can be caused by trauma or inflammation of the tensor veli palantine muscle. This muscle is attached to the soft palate and to the eustachian tube. It controls the opening and closing of the eustachian tube. The tensor veli palatine muscle is also innervated by the same nerve as the jaw muscles.
Chronic jaw clenching and teeth grinding can cause this muscle to spasm or become traumatized or inflamed resulting in a feeling of stuffiness or fullness in the ear.
Bruxism can contribute to TMJ and ear pain
Ever find yourself clenching your jaw during stressful situations or when really concentrating on something during the day? Or maybe your partner hears you grinding your teeth at night while sleeping?
Clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth is called bruxism. Those with bruxism, for the most part, are not even aware they have it. Often related to conscious or unconscious stress, it is a completely involuntary behavior. However unintentional, grinding your teeth and gritting your jaw muscles can have a real impact on your health, contributing to TMJ and ear pain.
TMJ can cause more than ear and jaw pain
TMJ is not limited to ear pain and jaw pain. Since the movement of the jaw is intricate, many additional symptoms can be triggered by TMJ dysfunction. Such symptoms can include headaches or migraines, jaw popping, clicking, or grinding sounds with any jaw movement. Some may experience lock jaw with the jaw wide open or impair it from opening.
If you or a loved one is experiencing ear and jaw pain it is a frustrating as well as painful experience. What can be further irritating beyond the discomfort is the lack of an accurate diagnosis and relief.
Many who experience such pain are not aware of the probability that it’s TMJ ear pain. Finding the right medical practitioner to resolve your pain can intensify the frustration.
There is good news.
There is non-invasive TMJ treatment for temporomandibular joint disorder at Bay Area TMJ & Sleep Center. Dr. David Busciglio, specifically helps patients who are experiencing pain and discomfort related to TMD. He and his team are committed to uncovering the source of your pain – not just treating the symptoms. Often, successful TMJ treatment involves a custom oral appliance tailored for you exclusively.
If you are experiencing symptoms from ear jaw pain, ringing, ear stuffiness or ear fullness, you don’t need to suffer anymore. Your symptoms may be attributed to TMJ disorder.
Our goal is to help you return to living the quality of life you deserve – pain free! Contact us today for a comprehensive evaluation.