There are many reasons why you may experience ear and jaw pain at the same time. The two parts are very different, but they lay close to each other.
The cause of pain could be a problem with your ear, jaw, or mouth. Additionally, you may experience jaw and ear pain on one or both sides due to referred pain. This phenomenon happens when your body feels an ache in one part of the body, which is due to an injury or trauma from another part of your body.
Here are eleven common conditions that can cause pain and discomfort in your ears and jaw simultaneously.
What Causes Jaw-Ear Pain?
1. TMJ disorders
One of the reasons for ear and jaw pain may have a close connection with your temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This area consists of the jaw joint and other related muscles.
The TMJ is right next to the temporal bone that includes your inner ear. When you chew and talk, the TMJ does most of the work.
Why does my ear hurt when I chew? The answer is TMJ disorder, which can be a source of swelling and discomfort in your TMJ. Pain in the face and ear are the most common symptoms of TMJ. If someone experiences these symptoms for more than three months, it’s a sign of chronic TMJ syndrome.
The issue can occur from wear and tear or due to another disease. In some cases, it may look like you have a TMJ disorder; however, in actuality, it may be something like sleep apnea, stress, or depression.
Experiencing pain in the jaw and ears close to the TMJ area can cause a migraine. Migraine attacks are defined as acute headaches that come and go. Unfortunately, they can make your body sensitive to light, sound, and smell.
Sinusitis is another cause for why your ear and jaw hurts. It develops if a person has a cold or allergies and the sinuses become irritated or swollen. The common cause of sinusitis is a virus, but many times bacteria is the culprit.
4. Swimmer’s ear
This problem occurs due to the formation of bacteria in the outer ear after swimming or because of an injury. The condition can develop when pool water comes in contact with your ear or if any object injures the lining of your ear. If the condition is left untreated, it can worsen and cause pain to your ear and jaw.
5. Rheumatoid arthritis
This is an autoimmune condition that develops when your immune system starts attacking the healthy joints of your body.
The outcome can be joint pain all over the body, including the TMJ. Specific triggers can aggravate the pain.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of TMJ arthritis and can lead to ear and jaw pain. The cause of this condition is the wear and tear of the cartilage that surrounds the joint. You’ll likely experience pain and stiffness in the joint.
7. Dental problems
Not following proper dental hygiene can lead to plaque build-up on your teeth and gums, resulting in tooth decay, periodontal disease, and oral abscess. Leaving these dental conditions untreated can cause pain in the jaw and ear.
8. Oral infections
As mentioned above, a tooth abscess can be one of the reasons why your ear or jaw aches. You may also experience gum inflammation or tenderness in or around the teeth. If your tooth pain goes away and comes back in the ear or jaw, this is an indication that the infection is going places. Here’s how to treat dental abscess at home.
9. Teeth grinding
Grinding your teeth consciously or unconsciously can cause TMJ disorders, causing pain in the jaw and ears. One such reason is an overbite. Other issues related to this condition include:
- Disturbed teeth alignment
- Teeth erosion
- Breakage of TMJ
- Muscle strains
You may unknowingly grind your teeth while sleeping and only realize something wrong when your jaw or ears hurt.
10. Jaw injuries
An oral injury like strained or sprained jaw muscles can also make your jaw hurt, and the pain travels to the ear. If a person who has been in an accident or survived a blow to the head feels jaw or ear pain, they may have incurred a jaw injury, which needs immediate treatment.
11. Sternocleidomastoid pain
Trauma to the sternocleidomastoid muscle that runs from the ear down to the collarbone can lead to ear and jaw pain. You’re also likely to experience eye pressure, sinus pain, and other symptoms that come with a cold or infection.
Home remedies for ear and jaw pain
If your jaw or ear hurt and the reason isn’t an infection or severe injury, you can try the following remedies at home:
- Wear a night guard to prevent tooth grinding
- Hot or cold therapy can help soothe the pain and aid in healing.
- Gently rub the painful area to ease tensed muscles.
- NSAID can help get rid of the aches
- Try jaw stretching techniques. Jut out your lower jaw and then hold it like that for 5-10 seconds. Then move your teeth forward and backward and then from left to right in a circular manner.
If you’re infected, you’ll most probably require antibiotics. For severe infections, a person needs additional treatments.
If the home remedies aren’t doing any good to you, here are some medical treatments to help you:
- Orthodontic treatments for the proper alignment of the teeth and jaw
- Surgery to minimize TMJ pain
- Fillings, root canals, or crowns to treat cavities
- Mouth guard to stop teeth grinding
- Therapy to reduce stress if you grind your teeth due to anxiety
- Medication for arthritis
- Physiotherapy for the treatment of jaw injuries
- Heavy dose painkillers for arthritis or TMJ disorders
When to visit your dentist
You should consult your nearest dentist if you experience the following:
- Sudden pain after injury
- Swollen gums or painful teeth
- Persistent symptoms that don’t go away with home remedies
- Antibiotics or other treatments don’t work
- You’re experiencing fever or inflammation that may indicate a tooth infection
- An excruciating jaw or ear pain