Can TMJ Cause Ear Pain?

Ear pain may initially make you think of an infection instead of your teeth as the cause. However, grinding your teeth or a bad bite can cause symptoms such as ringing sounds or pain in your ears. Because of your temporomandibular joints (TMJ) proximity to your ears, TMJ dysfunction can cause ear symptoms in addition to several other problems. Read below to find out can TMJ cause ear pain and how. 

If you have jaw pain, difficulty opening your mouth, or ear pain, schedule an appointment at Trident Dental for a comprehensive oral examination and TMJ evaluation.

What is the Temporomandibular Joint?

The most fascinating and complex joints in the human body are the ones your dentist evaluates and treats. The reason is that TMJ health depends on the health of your teeth. One of the distinguishing aspects of the TMJ is that two separate joints connect one bone, the mandible, with another, the skull’s temporal bone. 

The TMJs are located directly in front of your ears and are made up of the following:

  • A fibrous capsule that surrounds the joint.

  • A cartilaginous articular disc between the joint’s two bony surfaces that absorbs stress to the joint.

  • Several muscles that allow the jaw to make complex movements such as chewing and talking.

  • Three ligaments that help stabilize the joint.

  • The fifth cranial nerve which affects the muscles that insert into the TMJ and move your jaw.

Types of TMJ Disorders

The three main types of TMJ problems include:

  • Degenerative joint disease. The usual causes of this include rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

  • Internal joint derangement affecting the TMJ articular disc. The health of this disc is vital to the comfort and function of the TMJ by distributing stress and lubricating the joint. Pain and other symptoms can develop when the disc is displaced from its usual position between the bones of the TMJ. Common causes of this condition include trauma, such as sports injury or automobile accident, and habits such as grinding or clenching your teeth or biting your nails.

  • Myofascial pain disorder is the most common type of TMJ dysfunction and involves the muscles used to move your jaw. Muscle fatigue or spasms can result in pain and problems with jaw mobility.

Can TMJ Cause Ear Pain?

You have a cleft or fissure in the temporal bone on the side of your head, known as the petrotympanic fissure. This cleft connects your middle ear and the temporomandibular joint. Scientists have discovered these three soft tissue structures that make this TMJ-ear connection:

  • The mandibular malleolar ligament, which connects the hammer bone of the middle ear to the TMJ capsule and articular disc.

  • The chorda tympani nerve, which provides sensory feeling to the back two-thirds of your tongue.

  • The anterior tympanic artery, which supplies blood to the tympanic membrane, also known as the eardrum.

These connections, coupled with the proximity of the TMJ to the ear, may help relieve the confusing ear pain associated with TMJ dysfunction. The ear symptoms that develop secondarily to problems with the temporomandibular joint are known as “otomandibular syndrome.”

Schedule Appointment

Contact Trident Dental to learn how we can help you with any questions or problems you might have about jaw and ear pain and the possibility of TMJ disorder. We provide state-of-the-art dental technology and procedures to diagnose and treat problems with your TMJ.

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