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, what caused my mandibular pain was not so incredible after all. The night before I got myself several bags of sunflower seeds and enjoyed them while I was working at the computer. The continuous 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 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.

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). It is important to see a doctor even though you may identify the cause of your jaw and ear pain yourself.

Mandibular pain

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 jaw and ear pain:
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, headaches.
8) Buzzing or ringing ears.
Depending on the severity of the pain, you might be experiencing 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.

Conclusion: 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.

48 Replies to “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 continuous 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, biting 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.

  5. Hi, I am suffering from the same symptoms but my outer cheeks are not hurting. I cannot seem to be able to close my mouth and my jaw is hurting. I am also having insomnia. What should I do?

    • Hello, Afreen. You should make an appointment with a doctor. Tell the doctor about your symptoms and if you tend to rest your chin in the palm of your hand, if you ate hard foods that needed chewing or other things that may have caused the jaw pain. Wishing you lots of health.

  6. Have ear and jaw bone pain, back of neck and side of head also hurt to the touch. I can eat just fine, I’m a retired Veteran. Miles from VA, it’s been Hell for two weeks.

    • Hi, Michael. My advice is to see a doctor soon because two weeks is too long to let symptoms like that go unchecked. Tell the doctor how it began, if the pain spread progressively to the back of the neck or side of the head or if it began together in all of these areas, if you experience any other symptoms (itching, redness, dizziness, you name it). I recently had an outer ear infection I thought was an allergy itch, and because I delayed treatment, it got a whole lot difficult to treat. So please see a doctor. Wishing you lots of health and hope to hear back from you with good news.

  7. I can’t chew well and also having pain inside my left ear for like a week now. Whenever I am awake from sleep I experience much pain with my left ear. Sometimes without talking or chewing I felt like there’s a fracture between my teeth and the jaw. What am I to do please?

    • Hello, Ezekiel. You should make an appointment with your doctor because you have been having the ear pain for quite a while now. The pain inside the ear could be a sign of an infection, otitis, which requires adequate treatment. Your doctor should be able to advise you best after seeing you. Make sure you tell the doctor every symptom you experience (where the pain is located more exactly, what kind of pain it is and other details). Also, try to remember if you did anything specific that might have lead to the jaw and ear pain, like resting your chin in your hand, cracking you jaw, eating hard foods, maybe an injury, feeling particularly cold after a bath, sleeping with wet hair or going outside with wet hair. Tell the doctor about every symptom you’ve been experiencing, but do make an appointment soon. Hope this helps.

  8. My friend was playing catch with a tender coconut and by mistake hit my front lower jaw. But my front jaw doesn’t hurt. My right jaw (lower side) and ears ache. I can’t open my mouth completely too. Is this something serious?

    • Hello, Sherlyn. It is possible for an injury like that to one part of the jaw to produce effects on the other one. I think you should see a doctor in case the coconut dislocated your jaw. A dislocated jaw causes pain and doesn’t usually allow you to close or open your mouth completely or normally. In any case, see a doctor as soon as possible, especially if the jaw pain persists or becomes more intense. Hope this helps.

    • It is a possibility, yes. Cold air can cause jaw and ear pain if it’s coming directly at one’s ear or head. Air conditioning in the car, for example. It always gives me ear pain. But it might be best to make an appointment with your doctor to rule other causes like an infection. Wishing you lots of health.

  9. I have injured my lower jaw last week while trying to catch a ball. My chin hit the ground. Got stitches inside my lower mouth. That’s healing okay, but my left jaw makes cranking sound when I try to open my mouth wide open or try to pull my tongue out and so on. Should I go to dentist to do an x ray to find the issue? I have no pain on the left side of the jaw. Your advice is appreciated.

    • Hello, Murali. I am sorry to hear about your accident. It seems the injury was significant since you needed stitches, but it’s great that it’s healing. However, you have to keep in mind that the lower jaw (the mandible) is a movable bone and, by nature, a complex structure. So it’s only normal that healing will take some time, maybe months, maybe a year. You should try and not stress it very much and limit excessive movements so you allow it to heal properly. Eating softer foods that don’t require much chewing might help with your recovery. And you might want to go see a doctor, not necessarily a dentist, and have some tests to get all the information you need on your situation. It can very much help you understand what to do to help your lower jaw heal faster. Hope this helps.

  10. I recently suffered an injury to the face and the next day I noticed that I couldn’t chew anything, just swallow. When I yawn it’s very painful, even my ear starts becoming painful. It’s been 3 weeks and now my teeth are so tender, that even when I use my tongue to touch them, it’s painful. My jaw also makes a cracking sound when I open my mouth and I have one sided headaches. Is it broken or dislocated? And do I go to the doctor or wait it out? Thanks.

    • Hello, Nora. Three weeks is enough waiting. It’s time you went to the doctor, so please make an appointment as soon as you can. It’s possible you have a jaw fracture, a dislocated jaw, but only a doctor can tell for sure after he or she examines you. Go easy on yourself by eating soft food that requires little to no chewing, avoid talking too much or unnecessary movements like opening your mouth to see if the jaw still makes the cracking sound. Wishing you lots of health.

  11. Hi, I think that I put an ear plug in too deep, now the past two weeks my ear hurts to the touch and my lower jaw hurts to open my mouth wide.

    • Hello, Patricia. Because it could have resulted in injury to the ear drum, it is best to make an appointment with a doctor soon. It is possible the pain in your jaw comes from the ear injury. Wishing you lots of health.

  12. My mom is also having jaw problem and difficulty talking and opening her mouth. Doctor gave her medication, but it didn’t work. She was told to have surgery. What can I do? She is having a lot of pain. Please give suggestion.

    • I am sorry to hear this about your mom, Divindra. If the doctor recommended surgery, then your mom might have to actually undergo surgery for the jaw pain. It is a valid treatment option for some cases of jaw pain and your doctor has surely based his or her judgement on valid medical evidence after examining the situation. There is nothing I can tell you because there are so many causes behind this type of pain and only a doctor can recommend the best solutions for his patient. Lots of health and quick recovery for your mom.

  13. Hi doctor,
    I am experiencing pain in my jaw and ears on the right side.
    The pain is uncontrollable when I lie down to sleep. I don’t know how to sleep. The only position which makes me feel better is sleeping on my stomach with my ear and face on the right side with my hands underneath the pillow. It’s taxing on my back. Please suggest what is the problem and how will it go away.

    • Hello, Amrita. Know that I am not a doctor (please read the disclaimer). This being said, there could be a number of causes behind your jaw and ear pain (infection, injury or others). The best thing you can do is see a doctor as soon as possible. Tell the doctor when the pain started, what you were doing at that time and whether or not you have any other symptoms (example: a discharge from the ear, redness, itching, lumps, scratches, any symptom you might have noticed). Any information you can provide could help the doctor advise you best. So please make an appointment as soon as you can because if you can’t sleep from the pain, your jaw and ear pain could already be getting serious. Wishing you lots of health and hope to hear back from you with good news.

    • Thanks a lot.
      The doctor suggested some medicines and I am taking them. The bone behind my ear still hurts and so does the pressure in my right ear. Sleeping is uncomfortable.

      Is this a TMJ problem or a muscle pull or an ear infection or something else?
      The doctor does not diagnose, he just gives the medicines.

    • Hello, Amrita. The doctor surely gave you the medicines with a diagnosis in mind, but he should have told you too. You can tell what is your diagnosis based on what medicines he prescribed, but you can call the doctor’s office and ask for you diagnosis yourself. It’s your right know. As for what it may be, I can’t know. Only the doctor that did the examination can, based on the symptoms he or she observed and others you may have described. The important thing is that you went to the doctor and received treatment. If your jaw and ear pain does not improve with treatment, see your doctor for a follow-up. Wishing you lots of health and hope to hear back from you with good news.

  14. Hi, doctor, I feel heaviness in my left ear and a crunch in my left jaw while eating. Even when I yawn in the morning after waking up, I feel pain my left jaw point. It happened earlier as well but this time it has been accompanied by pain in left ear. I am very stressed. Please tell what I should do.

    • Hello, Harsh. First of all, know that I am not a doctor (it says so in the disclaimer). Secondly, I am sorry to hear about your jaw and ear pain. It is important to make an appointment with your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible. You should tell the doctor when the pain started, what happened when you first experienced the jaw and ear pain (were you yawning, eating, sleeping, swimming, exercising etc.), if you have other symptoms (discharge from the ear, redness or skin rash, itching, swelling etc.) or are in the habit of resting your chin in the palm of your hand, eating foods that are hard to chew, had a respiratory or other infection recently etc. Anything you can tell the doctor represents important information that will help with the diagnosis. Because the doctor needs to see you and find out how the jaw and ear pain came to be in order to help you. Wishing you lots of health and hope to hear back from you with good news.

  15. I wake up with the pain in my ear and throat – sometimes neck. what is odd is that when I am awake the pain is triggered by moving my tongue. How does this sound to you? Not sure if this is dental or medical issue.

    • Hello, Fae. Usually, pain in the throat and ear, especially a sharp pain triggered by movement or swallowing could indicate an infection, often of the tonsils, but also an otitis. There should be other symptoms to an infection such as fever, discharge, sore throat etc. But because you also experience pain in your neck and it’s triggered by movement of the tongue, it’s best to see a doctor for further investigation.

      Make sure you tell the doctor:
      – When the pain started.
      – What you remember doing around the time the pain began.
      – Where exactly does the pain originate in your neck.
      – What type of pain you are experiencing (dull, sharp, you name it).
      – Any other symptoms you have experienced since the beginning of the ear and throat pain.
      Wishing you lots of health and hope to hear back from you with good news.

  16. Everything you have described I have. I’ve gone to TMJ specialists, orthodontists, have done botox, splints, DTR therapy, physical therapy, night guards, Invisalign, psychotherapy, medication, neck MRI, jaw MRI, and have made little progress. I’ve lost 3 and a half years of my life and $30,000. TMJ is the devil.

    • I am so sorry to hear this, Brandon. One would expect conditions to show some improvements after such a long time and such financial efforts. Have the doctors at least identified the root problem of your temporomandibular pain? I’m assuming someone must have after all of these tests.
      In the meanwhile, how do you manage you symptoms? Hot packs, eating soft food such as baby food or food you mash with a food processor, taking vitamin C, anti-inflammatory medication or eating anti-inflammatory foods? And do you find any of the things you are doing to manage the pain help? Eager to hear back from you.

  17. Thank you! This was so helpful. I thought I was going crazy. My ears being blocked all the time is unbearable. I can hear my own blood flow, and that’s only the ears! Then there is the jaw. I thought I had a tooth canal infection and I was more paranoid reading about infections and pus that can be trapped in the jaw. (The pain started on my left side of my jaw then the right side started hurting too, but not as bad) But this article hit everything on the spot. Thank you too much.

    • I am so happy you found this article on jaw and ear pain helpful, Aseel. Now that you know what’s going on, it’s time to see a doctor and find out what causes your jaw and ear pain and see what you can do about it. Do you have any thoughts on the possible causes? Also, you may find it useful to the article on 11 causes of ear fullness. Maybe it can offer more insight into your problem. Wishing you lots of health.

    • When did the pain start? Has it become worse since then?
      What do you mean you feel something: a lump, swelling, a tender area or something else?
      Do you experience any other symptoms like a discharge, redness etc.?
      Do you have symptoms of an infection: earache or pain in the ear, fever, hearing problems or others?
      Does it hurt when you chew food, swallow food or water or talk?
      Please think about the answer to these questions and make an appointment with your doctor as soon as you can.

    • Hello, Mahlatse. Do you mean sleeping, or did you fall or hurt your ear or jaw somehow? Do you have a sore throat, earache or actual jaw pain?
      In any case, please make an appointment with your doctor. Remember to tell the doctor all of the symptoms you have been experiencing, even symptoms you may think are unrelated, when they started, if they’ve gotten worse or improved etc. Wishing you lots of health!

  18. Hi. For the last couple of weeks I had a dull pain in my left side of my jaw but recently the pain has got worse and now my left ear is starting to hurt. At first I thought it was just my molars but I’m not sure. Any information would be really appreciated, thanks.

    • Hi, Sophie. It could be worth seeing a dentist. Maybe there is a hidden cavity that is giving you trouble and causing inflammation. At the same time, you should consider an ear infection as a possibility. An outer ear infection, a middle ear infection, an inner ear infection are all possible causes. Or a throat infection, even a tonsillitis.
      Have you noticed other symptoms like a discharge from the ear, red or sore throat, inflamed tonsils or white spots on the tonsils and back of the throat? In any case, since it’s been so long already, a visit to the doctor’s office is in order. Up until a doctor has seen you, these are merely suppositions.
      Make sure you tell the doctor all the symptoms you’ve experienced, noticed, how long the pain has been going on for and how it’s evolved. Hope this helps and wishing you lots of health, Sophie!

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