jaw and the ear are closely related. Many people do not realise that
problems with the bite and the muscles which control the jaw can affect
are the possible symptoms of a problem with the bite and the jaw
In the ear:
- Pain in the
- Sense of
pressure and fullness in the ears
- Ringing in
the ears (tinnitus)
clearing the ears, especially on aeroplanes or at high altitudes
Ear pain which
is related to a dental problem is often easy to recognise as it
is usually felt in only one ear and can feel very 'deep'. The pain
may also be felt in the neck, the temple, or the back of the head
and it is often aggravated by movement of the jaw.
of a problem with the bite and jaw muscles:
- Sore and
tender muscles around the jaw joints
popping or grating sound in the jaw joints
- Jaw shifting
to right or left when open wide
opening and closing the mouth
type headaches which do not respond to migraine drugs
- Tense and/or
painful muscles in the neck and shoulders
of the jaw and ears are closely related. In a developing embryo,
the jaw and ear are initially one and the same. It is not until
the embryo grows that the bones of the ear and jaw separate. When
fully developed, the ear forms three parts: the external ear, the
middle ear and the internal ear. The three small bones (ossicles)
in the middle ear, the hammer (malleus), the anvil (incus), and
the stirrup (stapes) are named appropriately after their respective
shapes. Two muscles, the stapedius and the tensor tympani, attach
to these small bones and control the vibrations of the ear drum
and protect the internal ear from sudden loud sounds. As a result
of the close relationship between the ear and the jaw during embryonic
development, the same nerve (?the trigeminal nerve) controls both
the tensor tympani and the chewing muscles. Consequently, signals
which are sent through the ?trigeminal nerve can affect both the
jaw and the ear muscles.
anatomy of the ear and the jaw also have a close physical connection.
The two joints which attach the jaw to the skull are located just
in front of the ears. The part of the skull bone which separates the
jaw joints from the ear canals is extremely thin and the movement
of the jaw bone can easily be felt when both little fingers are placed
in the ears and the teeth are clenched. It is understandable, therefore,
that the inner workings of the ear can be disrupted if these joints
How a 'bad
bite' can affect the ears
A 'bad bite'
is the most common cause of dislocation of the jaw joints and tension
in the chewing muscles. A bad bite means that the upper and lower
teeth do not come together in a way which provides proper support
to brace the jaw against the skull. On average during a 24 hour
period the teeth come together over 2000 times when a person swallows.
If the bite is unstable due to poorly aligned or missing teeth,
the chewing muscles have to work much harder to bring the teeth
together and eventually they tire out and become shortened and stiff.
Eventually the chewing muscles may even start to spasm, which can
be very painful and can cause the jaw joints to misalign.
What if I
have these symptoms?
If you have
any of the symptoms described above, you should contact your dentist
who will examine your bite and the muscles of your jaw to determine
whether they are causing the problems. Dental treatment by a dentist
can involve adjusting the bite so that the chewing muscles can function
without extra strain and tension.
ear symptoms described here could be caused by a variety of ear-related
problems. You should, therefore, also contact your GP so that he
or she can, if appropriate, refer you to an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat)
If you live
in the Greenock area, or are willing to travel, you may wish to
consider making an appointment with Stewart Wright who, in addition
to offering the full range of standard dental treatments and cosmetic
dentistry, has extensive experience of treating pain and other symptoms
related to problems of dental origin. Stewart takes an holistic
approach to the diagnosis and treatment of head, neck and facial
pain and other related problems. He and his associates offer a range
treatments and therapies. You may wish to read what some of Stewart's
existing patients have to say about treatment by him.