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Ear and Jaw Pain: 6 Common Causes Explained

Experiencing pain in your ear and jaw can be very distressing, making daily life challenging. It's important to understand the connection between ear and jaw pain to find effective relief and treatments.

The ears and jaw are close to each other, so pain in one area can often affect the other. Sometimes, the pain comes from a common issue affecting both areas, or it might be referred to as pain spreading to the ear and jaw. This dual pain can often make it difficult to pinpoint the exact cause without medical assistance. 

Here, we explore six common reasons why you might be experiencing jaw and ear pain.

Updated: 11th July 2024

Common causes of ear and jaw pain

TMJ Disorders

Ear and jaw pain are often linked to TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders. The TMJ connects your jawbone to your skull, and issues in this area can cause significant discomfort. Around 5 to 10 percent of people experience TMJ disorders, andcommon symptoms include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw
  • Aching pain around your ear
  • Difficulty chewing or discomfort while chewing
  • Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth

TMJ disorders can result from various factors, including jaw injury, arthritis, or habitual clenching or grinding of teeth (bruxism).

Diagnosis typically involves checking for joint pain, chewing difficulties, and joint sounds.

Swimmer's Ear

Swimmer's ear, or otitis externa, is a bacterial infection caused by water trapped in the outer ear canal. This condition is common in children and can lead to ear and jaw pain. Prompt treatment is essential to prevent severe complications.

Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, can lead to TMJ disorders and associated ear pain. Chronic grinding can lead to:

  • Jaw pain and tightness
  • Earache
  • Headache
  • Worn-down teeth

Stress, anxiety, sleep disorders, and misaligned teeth are common contributors to bruxism. Mouth guards or stress management techniques can help alleviate this condition.


Arthritis, including osteoarthritis and autoimmune forms like rheumatoid arthritis, can affect the TMJ. Joint inflammation and swelling from arthritis can cause significant pain in the jaw and ear. 

Sinus Infections

Sinus infections can cause mucus buildup in the sinus cavities, leading to inflammation and pain that can extend to the ear and jaw. Symptoms often include:

  • Facial pain or pressure
  • Nasal congestion or discharge
  • Reduced sense of smell
  • Headache
  • Fever

Sinus infections can be triggered by colds, allergies, or other respiratory issues.

Dental Problems

Poor oral health can result in cavities, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. These issues can lead to bacteria buildup and severe complications like ear and jaw pain. Some signs that a dental issue may be the root cause include:

  • Persistent toothache
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold foods
  • Maintaining good oral hygiene is crucial to prevent these problems
  • Swelling or tenderness around the affected tooth or gums
  • Bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth

When to get medical help

While some causes of ear and jaw pain can be managed at home or with over-the-counter treatments, others may require professional medical intervention. Get medical advice if you experience:
  • Severe, persistent, or worsening pain
  • Difficulty opening or closing your mouth
  • Signs of infection, such as fever or drainage from the ear
  • Hearing loss

Diagnosing ear and jaw pain

To diagnose the cause of ear and jaw pain, healthcare providers typically perform a physical exam and review your health history. If necessary, they may recommend an X-ray or MRI to get a clearer picture of the problem.

Treatment options for ear and jaw pain

Treatment depends on the diagnosis. Most TMJ cases improve without treatment, but if your pain is persistent or severe, it’s important to see a healthcare provider. Common treatments include resting your jaw, using warm or cold compresses, doing jaw-stretching exercises, and practising good oral hygiene. 

Reducing stress and eating soft foods can also help.

Understanding the potential causes of ear and jaw pain is the first step toward effective treatment and relief. Whether it’s TMJ disorders, ear or sinus infections, dental problems, trigeminal neuralgia, or bruxism, recognising the symptoms and getting appropriate medical care can significantly improve your quality of life. Always consult with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and tailored treatment plan.
emma jarvis

Written By:
Emma Jarvis

Digital Optimisation Lead

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Medically Reviewed By:
Mahtab Kayani
Audiology Expert