The ears, nose and throat are connected by a delicate network of tubes, channels and passages. This is one of the reasons why diagnosing a problem in any of these three areas often requires an examination of the others.
Oral health problems leading to earaches
Sometimes an ear infection can cause toothache. In other cases, dental problems can lead to earaches. When determining the cause of your pain, your dentist will examine your mouth and discuss your symptoms and medical history with you.
For most patients, these dental conditions can be a source of ear pain:
The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) connect the bone of the lower jaw to the skull. If this complex network of ligaments, muscles and joints does not work in sync, ATM disorder can develop.
A symptom of an ATM disorder is ear pain. By treating the underlying causes of ATM disorder, your dentist can relieve jaw discomfort and any symptoms of ear pain.
Beyond ear pain, people with ATM disorder often suffer from:
- Facial pain
- Jaw pain
- Neck discomfort
- Cracked teeth
- Worn teeth
- Painful jaw muscles
- The misaligned bite
Did you know that the nerve that controls the eardrum (a small muscle deep in the ear) also controls the chewing muscles? This connection means that the pain in the jaw has a direct path to the inner ear.
The link between oral health and tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
Although the ringing ear is not physically painful, it can be psychologically exhausting. It has been reported that tinnitus can be caused by affected wisdom teeth, ATM disorder and abscesses.
Grinding teeth can cause a number of problems, from damaged teeth to tinnitus and earaches. The temporomandibular joints are adjacent to the middle and inner ear, which means that any problem that develops in the jaw can spread to the ears.
A common cause of ear pain is toothache. Toothache can result from:
- A caries
- Gingival infection
Experiencing a toothache or earache can be irritating and painful, but not knowing how to identify if you have a toothache or an earache can be even more irritating and painful.
Many people are confused about whether they suffer from toothache or earache. Sometimes toothache and earache can be related or have overlapping qualities. To differentiate between toothache and earache, it is important to know the symptoms and causes of each.
Symptoms of toothache:
- Experiencing pain in or around your tooth
- Feeling sore after eating or drinking hot or cold drinks
- Halitosis or bad breath
- Swollen glands
Causes of toothache:
- Dental cavities or infections
- Gingival infection
- Dental work
- Blocked food
- Teeth wear and tear
- Sinus infection
Treatment of jaw pain
Here are two ways to relax your jaw muscles and soothe your pain: Apply ice wrapped in a thin cloth over the sore area for 10 minutes, or use a warm cloth to apply to your jaw area.
Medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can also help reduce discomfort.
A massage of the affected area could help – using the index finger and middle finger, press on painful areas of the jaw, such as the area just before the ear, where the jaw joints meet.
How do you proceed? Use a circular motion with 5 to 10 rotations, then open your mouth and repeat the exercise. This will relieve tension and make the area more relaxed.
If the jaw is clenched, the pain will not go away easily, so you should be a little “encouraged” to relax. Our advice is to reduce stress (perhaps through yoga or meditation) and thus remove tension from the body, including the jaw.
During pain, avoid chewing foods such as apples, chewing gum or more chewy meat as much as possible. They put too much strain on the jaw joint and subsequently cause discomfort.
In rare cases, your doctor will recommend surgery on your jaw to correct temporomandibular joint and muscle problems, such as root canal treatment.