How Does TMJ Cause Ear Pain?

TMJ disorders can cause ear pain because of the close proximity and interconnectedness of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and the structures of the ear. The TMJ is located just in front of the ear, and its movement is responsible for opening and closing the mouth, chewing, and speaking. When the TMJ is dysfunctional or experiencing problems, it can affect the surrounding structures, including the ear, leading to ear pain.
Closeup up side profile sick female having ear pain
TMJ pain

Ear pain is not pleasant and can be debilitating as well as interfere with eating, speaking, and even be disruptive to ones focus and concentration at work and socially.  We have many patients who have seen their ENTs multiple times and have ruled out ear problems only to find out that it is the TMJ issues that cause this pain.

Here are a few ways TMJ disorders can cause ear pain:
  1. Referred pain:  When there is dysfunction or inflammation in the TMJ, the brain may interpret the pain signals as originating from the ear, leading to referred pain. This is because the ear and jaw joint innervation are so close and if the jaw is compressed back on the ear, the pain occurs in this area.
  2. Eustachian tube dysfunction: The Eustachian tube connects the middle ear to the back of the throat and helps regulate pressure in the ear. TMJ disorders can cause muscle tension and inflammation that may affect the proper functioning of the Eustachian tube, leading to ear pressure, fullness, or pain.
  3. Muscle tension: TMJ disorders often involve muscle tension and spasms in the muscles that surround the jaw joint, including the muscles that extend into the ear area. This muscle tension can radiate to the ear, causing pain and discomfort.
  4. Inflammation: Inflammation within the TMJ can extend to the surrounding tissues, including the structures of the ear, resulting in ear pain.
This is not to say that all ear pain is TMJ related. There all also  ear infections or problems with the ear itself. Therefore, if you are experiencing persistent ear pain, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a dentist or an ear, nose, and throat specialist (otolaryngologist), for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Many ENTs are aware of the fact if the ears are clear the pain is quite often TMJ related.
TMJ specialists or those with special interests in TMJ treatment can provide proper diagnosis and treatment.  A 3D scan along with comprehensive examination is the starting point. If you have questions regarding Houston TMJ Treatment or Houston TMJ Pain, please feel free to contact us, Ronald W. Konig DDS, FAGD, LVIF, 713-668-2289.

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