By Dr. Frederick Abeles

Published August 28, 2022

Home Blog Do I have an earache or TMJ?

Pain in the ear can have several causes. The most common are:

  1. Middle ear infection
  2. Impacted ear wax
  3. Eustachian tube dysfunction
  4. Ruptured eardrum
  5. TMJ dysfunction

The first four sources of ear pain all can be diagnosed and treated successfully by an ENT. If you have an earache, the first stop should be your ENT to rule in or rule out: middle ear infection, impacted ear wax, Eustachian tube (air pressure) dysfunction or a ruptured eardrum.

However, we get referrals all year long from ENT’s who say, “I’ve given them the antibiotics, steroids and drops. Their ears are clear. Go see a TMJ specialist.”

That’s because they know the same anatomy we do. Let me explain…

The TMJ or temporomandibular joint, is the only joint in the human body that gets positioned by where a bunch of teeth come together. Our bite relationship (how our teeth fit together) is what aligns our lower jaw into our upper jaw. And at the same time, it is aligning the ball into the socket of the TMJ because the ball (the technical name is condylar head) is actually part of the lower jaw.

So, in essence – our bite positions the ball into the socket of our temporomandibular joints. In the space between the ball and the socket, there are a number of structures inside the joint. One of them is a bundle of nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue called the retrodiscal pad or retrodiscal tissue. It’s a neurovascular bundle.

Nerve compression in the TMJ causes ear pain.

There are many nerves and blood vessels sandwiched between the ball and socket of the temporomandibular joint. If our bite relationship positions the ball too far up or back into the socket… it can cause compression of this neurovascular bundle called the ‘retrodiscal pad’.

If pressure is applied to these nerves and blood vessels inside the joint – the end result is ear pain.

Pain within the ear or around the ear can be caused by TMJ. At the Atlanta Center for TMJ, our job is to rule in or rule out if there’s an underlying TMJ problem causing the ear pain.

If your ear pain is caused by TMJ, we can help…

Call us and request an appointment. We know what to look for to evaluate and treat TMJ ear pain. Our MIRO Therapy® for TMJ is so effective it comes with an unconditional money-back guarantee.

Click here to learn about MIRO Therapy®