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Is It Ear Pain or TMD? Written By: Dr. Ankita Shah, Jan 2021

TMJ and stuffy ears, vertigo, jaw pain

Ear pain could be due to an ear infection or TMJ related. The first step is to get it checked by an ENT to make sure it is not an ear infection.

How are the ear and TMJ connected?

The most common cause of ear pain in an adult is the temporo-mandibular joint or TMJ. The temporo-mandibular joint is located extremely close to the ear canal and middle ear. The muscles that surround the temporo-mandibular joint and the fascia and ligaments that hold the bones in place are intricately connected with the ear and the nerve that supports the ear.

ear-and-tmj-connected

Common Ear Symptoms Related to TMJ

The complaints that we hear most often related to ears are:

1. Stuffy ears

Patients describe this as “I feel like I have been on an airplane and I need to pop my ears and I feel full or congested. These symptoms are mainly caused mainly because of muscular dysfunction in the muscles that surround and support the eustachian tube. These muscles are called the tensor tympani and the levator veli palatini. The eustachian tube equalize the pressure between middle and outside ear by opening intermittently. If muscles supporting the eustachian tube become dysfunctional, the ears start to feel full, become congested and may feel the need to pop them. If the muscles calm down, we can get that feeling to go away.

2. Vertigo or dizziness

The jaw bone is literally suspended in a sling of muscle which is why it is highly responsible for postural changes. The temporal bone houses the vestibular apparatus of the internal ear which is in charge of balance. If this unit i.e. the muscles and joint is dysfunctional it can lead to vertigo and dizziness that comes and goes.

3. Ear pain

Patients often describe this pain as a sharp lancing, stabbing type of pain or dull aching type of pain. Ear pain is often worse at night or in the morning. Some patients even tell us that their ear pain is worse when they chew or yawn.

Disco malleolar ligament is a physical connection between the joint and middle ear. It attaches to the articular disc in the TMJ to the middle ear. If the ligament gets stretched or strained or the disc becomes dislocated or there is muscle dysfunction, that could cause the lancing or dull pain in the ear.

The other reason for ear pain is referred pain from the lateral pterygoid muscle. It attaches to the disc in the joint and it has fibres that run behind the eye and all over. It definitely can cause referred pain in the ear.

Ear pain

4. Fascial Pain in Cheeks, Lower Jaw, Temples, Neck Resembling Sinus Infection

TMJ can cause other problems in the head and neck, as well. Often, people who clench at night will awake with aches across their cheeks or in the lower jaw . Inflammation of the fascia surrounding the jaw joint can also cause pain that radiates from the ear area up into the temporal muscle in the temple and/or into the neck muscles. Sometimes, people will even think that they have a sinus infection because of the combination of facial pressure and ear pain that they experience.

How to Treat Ear Pain?

Our conservative, sustainable and non invasive treatment options for ear pain caused by temporo-mandibular joint disorder are:

1. Soft Diet

No 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.

2. Heat Application

We recommend the application of warm packs a couple of times a day to help relax some of the musculature in that area.

3. Medication

We also recommend some anti-inflammatory medications for about a week to reduce the inflammation in that area.

4. Myofascial release

The most popular Myofascial release techniques is Functional Neuro Myofascial Massage Technique (FNFT) integrates trigger point observations.
Pain increases in times of stress.

5. Oral Myofunctional therapy

As this study from Brazil shows OMT has a significant reduction of pain sensitivity to palpations for all muscles and increased the mandibular mobility, range of motion and reduced frequency and severity of signs and symptoms of TMD. Myofunctional therapy may enhance a person's quality of life, especially if they are in pain from their jaw joint constantly working in dysfunction.

6. Custom made orthotics

The use of custom made orthotics relieve stress from the joint and are clinically effective.

All we wish is to make you happy and live pain free.

Please feel free to ask us any questions. You can always contact us for questions or to schedule a consultation.

Keywords : ear pain, clogging, stuffy ears, vertigo, dizziness, congested ears, sleep disorder, mouth breathing, Oral myofunctional Therapy, TMJ and ear pain