TMJ ear pain is one of the more common complaints among patients with TMJ disorder. Although TMJ may actually be the cause of the pain, there are many other medical conditions that can cause ear discomfort, therefore it’s crucial to see a physician in order to determine the true cause of the problem. Ruling out infection is especially important so that the possibility of hearing loss can be avoided.
Types of TMJ Ear Pain
Most of the time TMJ ear pain can resemble pain experienced from an ear infection. The pain may be dull and aching, or it may be sharp and piercing pain. It may worsen when pressing on the outer ear area just underneath and behind the ear. There may also be pain associated with swallowing or any movement of the mouth such as chewing, yawning, or talking.
Why TMJ Causes Ear Pain
The temporomandibular joint is located in close proximity to the ear. When a patient suffers from TMJ disorder, inflammation is often involved. In addition to the joint becoming inflamed, surrounding areas can be affected as well including the tendons and muscles that attach to the eardrum. When inflammation affects these muscles, disturbances arise in the ear canal, resulting in pain that is very similar to that of an earache due to infection. Additionally, when the jaw is constantly used, whether for eating, drinking, smoking, speaking, or yawning. Movement of the affected joint will also produce movement in the surrounding areas. If there is a disturbance in the ear, the pain experienced will be exacerbated with any movement of the jaw.
Treatment for TMJ Pain
There is no direct treatment for TMJ ear problems. When pain in the ear is experienced as a result of TMJ, medication can be given to temporarily relieve the pain and give you comfort. However, the underlying condition of TMJ itself must be treated directly in order to provide more permanent results. An evaluation of the patient’s symptoms should be carried out by a physician, who may then issue a referral to a dentist or an oral maxillofacial surgeon in order for the patient to get the right treament. It is important that the physician rule out the possibility of infection or direct damage to the ear before making the assumption that the problem is related to TMJ. Causes such as excessive wax buildup, infection of the throat or teeth, and trigeminal neuralgia can also trigger ear pain. Also any type of drainage from the ear is a warning sign that medical attention is needed as soon as possible.