Last Updated on June 5, 2023 by Dr Gustavo Assatourians DDS
Experiencing an earache can be annoying and painful; however, in many cases, it may not be related to an internal condition of the ear. The ear has a very complex anatomy made up of very sensitive nerve endings that connect to the jaw muscles. For this reason, dental conditions that cause ear pain occurs. Understanding this close relationship can help the afflicted find the most effective treatment.
Dental conditions that cause ear pain
1. Temporomandibular joint disorders
The temporomandibular joint is the junction between the upper jaw and the mandible. If this complex network of ligaments, muscles, and joints does not work in sync, a TMJ disorder can develop. Luckily, we have a comprehensive guide about how to cure tmj that can really help you treat this condition.
A symptom of TMJ disorder is ear pain. with TMJ disorder may also suffer from:
- Facial pain
- Jaw pain and its muscles
- Tooth wear
Jaw clenching and teeth grinding, in addition to causing damage to the structure of the teeth, can also have consequences at the ear level such as tinnitus and ear pain. The pressure exerted by the teeth puts stress on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), causing pain in the jaw, ears, and that side of the face. Teeth grinding is a really sensitive topic and it can cause several damage and might cause dental conditions. Read our article about cavities from teeth grinding to know more.
3. Dental malocclusion
Dental malocclusion is produced by the lack of morphological and functional harmony between both dental arches. This minor misalignment can cause pain that radiates to the auricular structures, affecting chewing and phonetic functions.
4. Impacted wisdom teeth
Third molars, commonly known as wisdom teeth, are the last permanent teeth to erupt in the mouth. They are also the teeth most often impacted within the jaw due to a lack of space. In many cases, impacted teeth put pressure on the teeth and cause pain in the jaw and skull that radiates to the ears.
5. Caries and dental infection
When dental caries does not heal, it spreads to the deeper layers of the tooth, causing the tissues to become inflamed, and a dental infection may develop. As the surrounding tissues become inflamed, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly where the pain is coming from as it radiates to the jaw, sinuses, or ear on the side of the infection.
6. Periodontal disease
Periodontal diseases are chronic inflammatory dental conditions that cause ear pain that affects the tissues that surround and support the tooth and can eventually cause tooth loss. The body’s response to invading bacteria can also affect hearing.
7. Trigeminal neuralgia
It is not very common, but it can also be a cause of dental, jaw, and ear pain. This condition originates from the trigeminal nerve, which affects the jaw, ears, and face, and is caused by facial trauma, pressure from other structures, or an incorrect dental procedure.
Symptoms and diagnosis
The symptoms of earache and dental pain are correlated, mainly due to the closeness of the structures on both sides. Ear pain and dental pain can have similar symptoms such that it can be hard to tell the origin of the pain.
Symptoms of a toothache can include:
- tooth discomfort
- sensitivity after eating or drinking a hot or cold beverage
- bad breath (halitosis)
- swollen glands
What are the treatments for dental conditions that cause ear pain?
When the corresponding specialist is unable to determine the cause of the ear pain and rules out an injury or hearing problem, the dentist will intervene to determine if the cause is an oral problem.
The treatment will depend specifically upon the dental conditions that cause ear pain to solve the problem at its origin. Treatment options include:
- Unloading splints for TMJ problems and bruxism
- Orthodontic Treatment to correct dental malocclusions
- Surgery for extraction of impacted third molars
- Dental caries filling
- Root canal
- Periodontal surgery and dental cleaning.
- Pain relief medications
Prevention is the best cure for any disease. Avoiding some of the most common oral diseases is within anyone’s reach if they follow basic tips.
- Balanced diet: a balanced diet with healthy foods helps strengthen teeth and gums, providing them with the needed vitamins and minerals.
- Daily hygiene habits: oral diseases can be staved off by maintaining correct hygiene, including brushing the teeth after each meal, and using a correct brushing technique.
- Visit the dentist regularly: it is vital to go to the dentist at least once a year for a check-up.
- Avoid the consumption of harmful substances such as acidic products, sugars, and other substances such as tobacco and alcohol that have proven very harmful to the teeth.
Remember that the dentist is the right person to advise you on the habits you must maintain, so do not hesitate to visit your dentist’s office frequently.
If you have any questions about dental conditions that cause ear pain or other topics, you can contact us at Channel Islands Family Dental as well as our page on Facebook. We look forward to your visit and we will make a timely diagnosis. Our dentists in Oxnard, Santa Paula, Ventura, Newbury Park, and Port Hueneme will be able to guide you toward the best treatment to take care of your health and give you back your best smile.
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- Ramírez LM, Sandoval GP, Ballesteros LE (2005). Ear symptoms and temporomandibular disorders: past and present. Latin American Journal of Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry – https://www.ortodoncia.ws/publicaciones/2005/art-3/
- Ried E (2016). Otalgia: pain in the ear. Clínica Las Condes Medical Journal – https://www.elsevier.es/es-revista-revista-medica-clinica-las-condes-202-articulo-otalgia-dolor-en-el-oido-S0716864016301249
- Villanes Z (2021). What causes ear and jaw pain? – https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/es/pain-in-ear-and-jaw