The most common causes of ear and tooth pain include infections, fluid buildup in the ear, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome, cavities, and tooth impaction. Ear and tooth pain often occur simultaneously due to the closeness of the nerves and other tissues in the face and head. While some causes of pain in these areas are serious, most pain is caused by minor infections or illnesses that can be easily treated by a doctor or dentist.
Ear and tooth infections are the most common causes of pain in these areas. Pain deep inside the ear may radiate down the jaw if caused by a middle ear infection, and may be also present with a fever and fluid drainage from the ear. An infection in the ear canal, outer ear, or the mastoid bone behind the ear can also cause pain. These types of infections often occur with redness and swelling of the outer ear or the area around the ear, and require prompt medical attention. Infections of the teeth or gums due to poor oral hygiene, abscesses, or conditions such as gingivitis can also lead to pain in the mouth that may also affect the ear.
Fluid that builds up inside the ear can lead to pain and pressure. The discomfort may extend down the jaw and affect the teeth as well. Eustachian tubes inside the ears can become blocked with fluid due to sinus pressure from a cold or the flu. Over-the-counter decongestants can help dry up excess fluid, and a warm compress or heating pad applied to the ear or jaw can help minimize pain. In severe cases, doctors can drain the fluid from the ear or implant tubes in the eardrums to stabilize pressure inside the ears.
Ear and tooth pain that occurs at the same time is common for people who suffer from TMJ syndrome. The temporomandibular joints on either side of the jaw can become dislocated or suffer from wear on the cartilage disks that cushion the joints, resulting in pain that may occur at the jaw joint, in the ear, or in the teeth. Treatment for TMJ syndrome includes mouth guards, jaw exercises, and bite therapy to help align the jaw and reduce clenching and grinding, which can make symptoms worse.
Dental problems, including cavities and tooth impaction, often lead to ear and tooth pain. Pain from problems that affect the roots of the tooth can manifest in the mouth, up the jawline to the ear, or over the entire side of the face. Wisdom teeth located at the back of the mouth often become impacted and must be removed by an oral surgeon if they lead to pain or other dental problems.