This photo is the dental xray of a patient with ear pain.

How can ear pain and teeth be related?

Pain is not normal. Severe, constant pain robs people of their everyday life. Finding the source of pain can be extremely difficult, especially when it comes to the head and neck. Backaches are the number one reason patients seek out a doctor, and head and neck pain is second, so it is quite common.

You can’t see pain in an X-ray. A patient was having extreme pain on the left side. The pain was radiating from around the ear. There were no decayed teeth, no bone loss, nor any type of infection; yet the pain was so severe, it was all she could think about.

The area around the ear is extremely complex, consisting of the temporomandibular joint, blood vessels, tendons, ligaments and the most complex nerve system in the body – the trigeminal nerve. Not only is this area complicated and intricate, but it is also the most used joint and muscle system in the body.

Because of its complexity, the system of chewing, eating, swallowing, clenching and talking needs needs to be in balance. When unbalanced, a common result can be severe muscle pain caused by trigger points or muscle spasms.

Most over-the-counter pain medicine or prescription drugs are bought because of mild to severe headaches. Many contribute the pain to allergies, stress, sinus, etc., but it can initiate from the spasms in the head. Frequently, the drugs do not eliminate the pain, which leads to taking more pills more frequently and never eliminating the pain.

This xray shows the loss of molars.  This never “bothered” the patient, but over time and without proper and even biting support, the jaw joint became more compressed.  The jaw joint is very close to the ear, and the nerves supplying both are interconnected…so it’s not uncommon to find patients who have molar teeth removed to later experience ear pain, ringing in the ears, a feeling of fullness in the ears, in addition to other symptoms.  How can this be corrected? “Replacing” the missing molars on both sides to better balance the bite can often be the solution.

Dr. Andrea Stevens is a cosmetic and family dentist in practice in Kanata, Ontario. If you have dental questions, you can call her at 613-271-7091 or visit her at kanatacosmeticdentist.com Please also feel free to leave comments or questions below, and Dr. Stevens will be happy to answer!