Jaw and Ear Pain: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Jaw and Ear Pain: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment: A lot of us have often experienced debilitating jaw and ear pain, also known as mandibular pain or temporomandibular pain. While the pain can make it incredibly difficult for one to eat and even talk properly, the condition is usually harmless and chances are it will resolve itself in a matter of weeks or months, depending on its gravity. Jaw and ear pain, or mandibular pain, usually occurs unannounced and may cause one to panic, thinking that maybe the jaw bone got stuck or something similar.

In my case, the pain took about 15 days to disappear and I got to resume my normal life immediately after. However, it was not easy having to deal with it for two weeks and I had to be very careful not to stress the jaw even more than it already was with foods that required a lot of chewing, talking too much or resting my chin in the palm of my hand. But let me tell you about it.

Jaw and ear pain

I woke up one morning with a sort of clenched jaw sensation and experiencing quite a lot of pain in my lower jaw and ear area. Chewing, talking and any form of jaw movement was extremely difficult because of the pain. But the pain disappeared as soon as I closed my mouth and kept it shut. While my family would have loved to believe that it was a sign I was talking too much, the thing that caused my mandibular pain was not so mind-blowing.

The night before I got myself several bags of sunflower seeds and enjoyed them while I was working at the computer. The continous effort of trying to crack the seeds put a strain on my lower jaw and left it tense and hurting. As I suspected, the pain came from a nerve inflammation as a result of my constant, devoted chewing.

If you experience a similar pain in the jaw that leaves you unable to eat or talk properly, try placing a finger right below the ear lobe, where you might feel tension. Then open your mouth and you have found the inflammation point causing the pain. Gentle pressing might help alleviate the pain for the moment, but will not treat the problem.

Mandibular pain

Unless you have teeth alignment or existing jaw bone problems, experiencing pain in the area between your jaw and you ear is a sign of mandibular tension and possibly inflammation, called temporomandibular pain (it involves the temporal and mandible areas).

Most of the time, mandibular pain is a harmless condition brought about by similarly harmless actions. Here is a list of potential causes of jaw and ear pain:

1) Chewing too hard or too much.
2) Grinding teeth during sleep or while awake.
3) Jaw clenching.
4) Stress causing teeth grinding or jaw clenching.
5) Bad posture (resting your chin in your hand for prolonged periods of time puts pressure on the jaw).
6) Dental work that my alter normal bite (surgery, dentures).
7) Consuming hard foods that require a lot of chewing.
8) Injury (fracture, dislocation) or disease (chronic pain or fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, etc.)
These are rare occurrences.

Symptoms also vary from tension and pain to problems chewing and talking. Here are potential signs that accompany the condition:

1) Pain starting from the lower jaw up to the ear lobe (mandible pain).
Pain may also be experienced at the level of the cheek bone of the affected side.
2) Tension in the lower jaw or jaw becoming stuck.
3) Popping or clicking jaw.
4) Problems closing mouth, chewing and talking.
5) Tenderness of face muscles.
6) Teeth pain.
7) Neck tension and pain and headaches.
8) Buzzing or ringing ears.
Depending on the severity of the pain, you might be experiecing sleep problems such as insomnia.

While my experience with mandible pain was not very scary, I did have to take great care to ease the strain I usually put on my jaw and ear joint. And, luckily, I was back to my normal self in about two weeks. While the pain may take up to several months to completely disappear for some people, with a little luck and great care your condition might improve a lot faster. Here are 5 things you can do to ease jaw and ear pain:

1) Apply dry, warm compresses alternating with cold compresses for several minutes a day.
2) Eat soft foods: mashed potatoes, cauliflower, peas, etc.
3) Avoid screaming or talking too much and opening the mouth all the way.
4) Help relax the area by massaging it or moving it slowly.
5) Avoid chewing gum, eating nuts, seeds, bitting nails or spitting.
6) Correct posture by avoiding resting your chin in the palm of your hand.
7) Try not to clench the jaw or grind your teeth, if possible.
8) While I did not use anti-inflammatory medication, your doctor might advise you in this direction.

The area from our lower jaw up to the ear lobe is a sensitive one and excessive chewing, resting the chin in the palm of our hand all the time, eating hard foods that require a lot of chewing, clenching our jaw or grinding our teeth can put a lot of strain on it, resulting in mandible pain and difficult use of the mouth. So make sure you are doing all you can to prevent potentially debilitating jaw and ear pain.

10 thoughts on “Jaw and Ear Pain: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

  1. I am experiencing pain in my jaw and inside my ear when i close my mouth. It is painful and i am am wondering what has happened! I don’t know the cause, maybe i had to eat too much lately.
    So i was thinking to visit a doctor but now I’ll first take precautions and follow the guidelines for a week. I hope this go away. Thank you and for your efforts.

    • Hi, Aarav. My advice is that you go see a doctor anyway. It is always best to have the opinion of a medical professional, even if symptoms don’t seem important. Wishing you lots of health.

    • Hi, Mukesh. My advice is to make an appointment with your doctor and tell the doctor all of your symptoms, for example, the type of pain (dull, sharp, mild, strong or other) and how long you have had it for. Is it continous or does it stop? If you don’t feel pain in your jaw all the time, what are you doing when it does occur? Are you eating, resting your chin in your hand or doing anything else? Have you had recent work done at the dentist’s, have you suffered an injury to the jaw or face or have you been eating foods that are hard to chew? Do you notice or sense swelling in the jaw area? Make sure you tell your doctor everything and he or she will be able to diagnose you from that point on. Wishing you lots of health.

  2. Am currently feeling the pain when I move my jaw, it is accompanied with a sharp pain in the ear as if there is a swollen that has occurred in my inner ear. I think it is because I was always clenching my teeth together when am stressed. It had occurred before but left, now it’s back again. Maybe I should see a dentist for teeth guide to relax and prevent stressing my jaw. It’s really painful and scary now.

    • I think you maybe need to see a dentist and a family doctor or primary care provider (a medical professional with a more general training) to rule out other possible causes in addition to clenching teeth (infection, pinched nerve etc). From my experience, habits like clenching one’s teeth, bitting nails, playing with one’s hair, resting one’s chin in the palm of the hand etc. need to be unlearned and we can unlearn them only when we consciously make the decision to do so and keep to it. It’s difficult, but it can be done if we persevere. The advantage is that we can only benefit from such a decision further on. So, yes, the best thing you can do right now is to go see a doctor and a dentist and maybe make a promise to yourself to get rid of this habit so you don’t have any future problems because of it. Wishing you lots of health.

  3. I am experiencing this problem, the difficulty to chew food on the left side of my mouth. But it’s not getting pain. But I can’t chew the food completely. It is hard to open my jaw while eating. What can I do ?

    • Hello, Sang. I think you should go to the doctor. As you may have read in the article, there are numerous factors that can cause jaw and ear pain: sitting with your head in the palm of your hand, chewing food that is too hard, such as steak, talking too much and many, many other causes. So make an appointment with your doctor and he or she will know how to advise you on this matter. Wishing you lots of health.

  4. Hello sir. I’m having pain in my left mandibular region (temporomandibular joint area) for 4-5 days. Generally it doesn’t occur in resting. But when I suddenly clench my teeth or chew something, it happens from left side and I feel some pain in my external ear canal. Though I’m 3rd year mbbs student, should I take analgesics? And I dont have any swelling and any inflammatory signs over there. Give me advice as soon as possible. Thank u for ur time.

    • Hello, Hinali. Do you also hear a cracking, clicking or popping sound when you move the jaw? As for the pain relieving medication, only you can tell if you need analgesics for the pain. What I did when I had the same jaw and ear pain was eat soft foods that didn’t require much chewing like mashed potatoes, soft cheese, soups, mashed beans, mashed cauliflower, mashed spinach, soft boiled eggs or any food that is soft or can be mashed with a kitchen blender or food processor. I also avoided the cold and kept myself warm. I avoided grinding my teeth, clenching my jaw or any similar action that stressed the jaw even more like yawning or yelling. But I talked, slowly and calmly. I used talking as a sort of exercise for my jaw pain, so it would recover faster. My advice is to also see a doctor in order to rule out a possible ear infection. It’s better to be safe. Wishing you lots of health.

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