Ear Infection or TMJ?


O'Fallon IL Family DentistIf you are experiencing ear pain as an adult, don’t be too quick to assume it is an ear infection. A professional diagnosis is always necessary, but it is important to be aware of another common cause of ear pain in adults, which is TMJ dysfunction. TMJ is the temporo-mandibular joint, or the joint that opens and closes your mouth and helps you chew.

This joint is also located very close to the middle ear and ear canal. In fact, the muscles, fascia and ligaments that surround and support the TMJ are intricately connected with the ear and its nerves. Therefore, when this jaw joint becomes irritated or inflamed, it is understandable why patients experience ear pain. This pain can be intermittent or persistent over the course of several weeks. You may even feel like your ears are clogged, especially at night or first thing in the morning.

TMJ disorder can be caused by a number of factors. Some patients have malocclusion, which means that their back molars don’t fit together well. This causes extra strain and uneven pressure on the jaw joint when biting down. One of the most common triggers for ear pain related to TMJ is teeth grinding (bruxism) or teeth clenching. This habit is often involuntary or subconscious, so it can be difficult to put the pieces together in relation to ear discomfort. A custom mouthguard can treat this type of TMJ disorder, especially when worn at night to prevent bruxism.

In other cases, ear pain can be a temporary side effect from a root canal or deep gum cleaning. These dental procedures often require the jaw to be held open for a long period of time, which can sometimes strain the surrounding ligaments of the TMJ. This should resolve with time.

Does your ear still hurt after your physician ruled out an infection? Consider speaking with your dentist. At Soft Touch Dentistry, we can treat your ear pain if it is related to your TMJ. We offer custom mouthguards for nighttime teeth grinding and other effective TMJ therapies.

Posted on behalf of Dr. Sarah Thompson, Soft Touch Dentistry
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Soft Touch Dentistry

1214 Paragon Dr
O’Fallon, IL 62269
(618) 622-5050