Ear infections are more common in kids than adults. However, if you’re experiencing ear pain in your later years, you may understandably assume it is caused by an ear infection. While this could certainly be the case, your pain may not be coming from your ear at all. In fact, your ear pain could actually be a malfunction in your dental health, specifically your TMJ (or temporomandibular joint).
The TMJ is the joint that opens and closes the mouth. It plays an integral role in your dental function. However, it is also located right next to the middle ear and ear canal. In fact, some of the muscles and ligaments that support the jaw joint are intertwined with the nerves of your ear. Therefore, when your jaw joint becomes inflamed, strained or irritated, you may feel the effects into the ear canal.
Ear pain caused by TMD can take various form. You may feel sharp pain that comes and goes, or a persistent dull ache. Other patients report a feeling that their ears are clogged, especially in the morning. If your physician has ruled out an ear infection, your dentist may be the next place to stop.
TMJ disorder (or TMD) can also cause tension headaches, facial pain, jaw stiffness, jaw clicking and other disruptive symptoms. Since TMJ discomfort is often caused by nighttime teeth grinding or clenching, a custom nightguard may be your final solution to protect your teeth as well as relieve your jaw and ear pain.
At Park South Dentistry, we offer advanced therapies to treat TMD, including custom mouthguards. If you do not have a bruxism habit, we will investigate the cause until we have a solution. In some cases, orthodontic treatment is needed to correct a malocclusion and help you regain jaw joint comfort. We don’t want our patients to suffer from ear pain because of their teeth. If you are experiencing any symptoms of TMD, please give us a call today.