Several times a month, a patient will come into our office complaining of ear pain. Most of the time these patients believe they are experiencing an ear infection. This is indeed the case for some patients, but it may come as a surprise that most of these ear pain cases have nothing to do with the ear at all.
The Most Common Cause of Ear Pain
The most common cause of ear pain in an adult is the temporo-mandibular joint or TMJ.
This is because the temporo-mandibular joint is located extremely close to the ear canal and middle ear. When muscles that surround the temporo-mandibular joint become injured or inflamed, pain can radiate through the jaw and up through the ear. Frequently the pain (in one ear or both) can persist for several weeks and may even come and go. Very often, hearing becomes affected with patients reporting a stuffy or clogged feeling in the ear.
Common Factors That Lead to a TMJ Disorder
Most people with TMJ disorder have some kind of predisposing factor. The most common factor is that the molar teeth do not fit together that well (called a mild malocclusion). When the teeth do not fit together perfectly, biting can cause stress at the jaw joint because an abnormal or uneven force is being applied to one or both of the joint spaces.
Also, very often, people with TMJ have bruxism — which means that they either clench or grind their teeth. Tooth clenchers tend to clench during the day when they are concentrating or thinking hard about something. The tooth grinders tend to do it at night while they are sleeping.
Ear pain can also be caused by a dental procedure such as root canal or gum cleaning. During these procedures, the temporo-mandibular joint has been stressed because the mouth was held open for a long period of time.
How to Treat Ear Pain Caused By TMJ Disorder
The conservative treatment for ear pain caused by temporo-mandibular joint disorder is very simple. First, we recommend a soft diet which means no heavy chewing of foods such as raw fruits and vegetables, hard-crusted bread or tough meat.
Of course, we recommend no chewing of gum or other recreational chewing. We recommend the application of warm packs a couple of times a day to help relax some of the musculature in that area. We also recommend OTC anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen to reduce the inflammation in that area.
These measures should help resolve the TMJ flare.
It’s important to note that TMJ can also cause other problems in the head and neck, as well. If you are experiencing ear pain, or jaw pain from a possible TMJ disorder, it’s important that you get immediate care.
Call Pasadena Pain Management to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION at 626-773-8333.
About Pasadena Pain Management
Pasadena Pain Management offers pain management treatment for TMJ/TMD, migraine, headaches and neck pain in Pasadena, CA. Our office is conveniently located with extended hours to meet your needs. At Pasadena Pain Management, we offer the exclusive TruDenta treatment therapy — a highly specialized form of care that involves cutting-edge dental technology, without needles or injections. Patient satisfaction is our top priority and we strive to provide the exceptional, affordable pain management care and personal touch that lead to lasting relationships. A smiling patient is our greatest reward and we look forward to keeping our patients happy and pain free.