Can Dental Problems Cause Ear Pain?

By Thomas G. Zarger Jr., D.D.S. on May 12, 2019

A woman with a pained look holding her hand to her ear Tooth pain can impact daily life, making it difficult to enjoy eating and focus on everyday tasks. Dr. Thomas G. Zarger offers a wide range of dental procedures to treat pain and restore oral health.

Sometimes, pain from dental problems manifests in other areas, like the neck, jaw, and even the ears. Today we'll consider how dental problems can cause ear pain. Those in and around Knoxville, TN who are experiencing dental problems and ear pain are encouraged to schedule a consultation with Dr. Zarger to learn about their treatment options.

Dental Problems Can Cause Ear Pain

When ear pain is present in healthy ears, it may be a form of referred pain from dental problems. Referred pain describes pain that is felt at a location other than the site where the pain originated and occurs as a result of the way sensory nerves interconnect.

There are several dental problems that can cause referred pain in the ears. Treating dental problems in Dr. Zarger's Knoxville office often helps relieve ear pain related to dental issues and helps restore oral health. The following dental problems are some of the most common problems that can result in ear pain.

Dental Cavities

Dental cavities are tiny holes or openings in the teeth primarily caused by the bacteria in plaque along with sugary foods and drinks and poor oral hygiene.

As cavities become worse, they can cause tooth pain and lead to large areas of decay or even tooth loss. The pain from cavities in the molars, especially those close to the ears, may feel as though the pain is coming from the ears.

Root Canal Infections

Root canal infections stem from dental cavities or dental injuries, both of which can expose the inner nerve, pulp tissue, and roots of the teeth to bacteria.

When these delicate tissues become exposed to bacteria, they can become infected, resulting in extreme pain. As with dental cavities, this pain may be felt in the ears.

Tooth Abscesses

Tooth abscesses are a buildup of pus, often from a root canal infection or other bacterial infection, that forms within a tooth or the gums.

Abscesses within the tooth most commonly occur at the tip of the tooth's root and are called periapical abscesses. Abscesses within the gums generally occur beside the root and are called periodontal abscesses.

Both types of abscesses can cause facial swelling as well as severe and persistent throbbing pain in the neck, jaw, or ear.

Impacted Molars

Impacted molars, or wisdom teeth, are teeth that don't have enough room to erupt properly. Sometimes an impacted molar will partially erupt, other times the tooth may grow at an angle and never break through the gums.

Impacted molars can press against the adjacent teeth, causing dental damage and other oral health problems.

Impacted molars may cause no symptoms but when they do, some may feel pain, swelling around the jaw, difficulty opening the mouth, and pain around the ears.

Tooth Loss

Untreated tooth loss can cause chewing to become imbalanced. Over time, an imbalance can strain the tendons, muscles, ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels around the temporomandibular joint.

When this occurs, the tissues around the temporomandibular joint can become fatigued and sore. Due to the proximity of the temporomandibular joint to the ear, pain is sometimes felt as ear pain.

Discover Your Treatment Options

If you are experiencing ear pain, it may be caused by dental problems. If you live in or around Knoxville and would like to learn more about dental problems and ear pain, or find out more about treatment options that may be right for you, we welcome you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Zarger by calling (865) 693-7631.

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