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Can ear pain cause teeth pain? Causes & Treatment

Last update on Mar, 01, 2024

We all know that old song about the hip bone being connected to the thigh bone, but the human body’s interconnectedness extends far beyond this simple rhyme. Surprisingly, many other parts of your body are intricately linked. One example is right in front of your face—literally—since the nerves in your teeth and ears are closely connected through the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). That means if something goes wrong with your ears, your teeth might feel pain or vice versa. 

Can ear and tooth pain be linked?

Ear pain and tooth pain might originate in different parts of the body, but they can certainly be interconnected. Understanding the underlying causes of the pain and appropriate treatment methods can help you find lasting relief.

If you’re wondering, “Can an ear infection can cause tooth pain?” the answer is a definite “yes.” Ear infection tooth pain is a real issue that many people face. When your middle ear becomes infected, inflammation occurs. This can lead to radiating pain that reaches your nearby jaw and teeth. Fortunately, this pain can often be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication

A sinus infection can cause tooth pain in many people. That’s because your largest pair of sinuses are located above the back teeth of your upper jaw. The roots of the upper teeth can even extend into the sinus cavity. An infection in the sinuses can spread down into your mouth, causing sinus infection tooth pain.

Wisdom tooth pain and ear pain can also be connected. Wisdom teeth, especially impacted ones, can not only cause mouth swelling and tooth crowding but can also result in infections and ear pain. If this is a concern, speak with your dentist about pain management and a treatment plan.

A dental procedure like having a tooth pulled can affect the ears. Earaches after tooth extraction happen because inflammation at the extraction site can cause a buildup of pressure, which leads to an earache.
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Mouth infections and ear pain

What causes mouth infections? There are many possible culprits, including abscesses from periodontitis, or gum disease. Additionally, dental issues like cavities, abscesses and impacted wisdom teeth can also lead to mouth infections. As mentioned above, impacted wisdom teeth and ear pain are often connected—but other mouth infections can contribute to ear pain as well.

Treating ear pain that stems from a mouth infection involves addressing the underlying cause of the mouth infection. Mouth infection treatments often include dental treatment and related necessary procedures. Another potential treatment involves a full course of antibiotics (as long as the infection is bacterial and not viral). You may also be advised to use OTC pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve discomfort.

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Ear, jaw and teeth pain

If you’ve been struggling with a jaw injury, you should be aware that ear pain can also occur as part of that issue. Radiating jaw pain, whether caused by jaw surgery, a fall, an accident or a blow to the head, could cause pain in the ears, too.

If the pain is due to a lower jaw fracture, the most common jaw injury treatment is resetting the jaw, through surgery, or by wiring the jaw closed until bones heal. Your oral surgeon will also likely prescribe a painkiller.

For ear, jaw and tooth pain associated with TMJ, your doctor may recommend an oral splint or physical therapy to help mitigate pain. Resting the jaw, gently massaging jaw muscles and OTC pain medication can also help. Avoid chewing gum when experiencing jaw pain. If ear pain doesn’t go away after treating jaw pain/injury, you should talk to your doctor. 

Bruxism, grinding teeth and ear pain

Bruxism is a condition where a person involuntarily grinds, gnashes, or clenches their teeth. The effect of bruxism on a tooth can cause a wide range of symptoms throughout the body, including ear pain.

Tooth grinding or bruxism treatment is often as simple as sleeping with a mouth guard. To mitigate associated tooth, jaw and ear pain, consider applying heat or ice, gentle massage or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin or ibuprofen.
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Ear and gum pain

The most common causes of simultaneous ear and gum pain include:

  • TMJ disorders,
  • dental issues
  • teeth grinding.

Other causes include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis, migraine, swimmer's ear or sinusitis. If you’re concerned about ongoing ear and gum pain, talk with your doctor or dentist for diagnosis and treatment options.

What causes ear and tooth pain on the same side?

Also known as “referred pain,” having a toothache and earache on one side of the face is commonly caused by TMJ disorders or sinus infections.

Infections of the mouth can cause pain in the ears, too. The most common issue is an abscess that spreads to your ear, jaw and neck on the same side as the mouth pain. Mouth infection treatment might require a root canal or tooth extraction.

Sinus infection ear pain happens when fluid buildup from an infected sinus becomes trapped behind the eardrum. The congestion and inflammation in the sinus area can lead to a secondary ear infection as well.

Ear infection and tooth pain remedy suggestions include:

  • OTC pain relievers
  • warm saltwater rinses
  • topical oils like clove or oregano
  • ice or heat
  • keeping the head elevated

If you’re experiencing a toothache, see a dentist for an exam to explore causes, including gum disease, cavities and other infections. If the dentist determines your problem isn’t tooth-related, then ask for a medical recommendation to consult with a doctor about the connection between your ear pain and teeth. If you are also experiencing hearing loss, come visit us in your nearest Miracle-Ear center.
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