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Many conditions can cause jaw or ear pain. In some cases, the pain can feel like it’s coming from the jaw or ear but actually stem from pain or swelling elsewhere. This is called referred pain.
Most cases of mild jaw or ear pain resolve on their own or with basic at-home care. But severe or chronic jaw or ear pain can signify a serious underlying condition that requires treatment.
A wide range of conditions that impact the face, jaw, and neck can cause jaw or ear pain:
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a joint in the jaw. It connects the jawbone to the skull. When someone develops pain and discomfort in the TMJ or surrounding muscles, the condition is called a temporomandibular disorder (TMD).
The exact cause of TMD is often unclear. But TMD can be related to:
Not everyone with TMD will have the same symptoms, but most people experience:
TMD can sometimes resolve on its own without treatment. But chronic symptoms might require one or more of the following:
Arthritis is inflammation of the joint or joints. There are many types of arthritis, but the most common are:
Many symptoms associated with arthritis can also be signs of other conditions. But the most common arthritis symptoms include:
The best treatment for arthritis depends on the cause. Common treatments include:
Migraines involve intense pulsating, throbbing, or pain on one or both sides of the head. Unlike regular headaches, migraines are much more severe and last between 4 to 72 hours. Researchers currently believe that migraines have a genetic cause.
The most common symptom of migraines is severe, unrelenting pain. But some people also experience:
There is currently no cure for migraines. Available treatments focus on treating a migraine once it develops or trying to prevent it.
Some medications can help reduce migraine symptoms when they occur. Treatments that may help prevent a migraine include:
Behavioral strategies can also help prevent migraines. These include:
Ear infections occur when bacteria form an infection in the ear, often in the middle ear. One common type of bacterial ear infection is called swimmer’s ear.
Common symptoms of an ear infection include:
Some ear infections resolve on their own without treatment. But you can use OTC pain relievers to help manage pain and discomfort. A doctor may prescribe antibiotics if an ear infection doesn’t go away naturally.
Sinusitis is inflammation of the sinuses, the small, air-filled cavities between your forehead and cheekbones. Infections or allergies often cause it.
Symptoms of sinusitis include:
Most cases of sinusitis resolve naturally once the viral infection or allergies resolve, often within 2 to 3 weeks.
You can manage sinusitis using at-home treatments such as:
If at-home remedies don’t reduce sinusitis symptoms, or if symptoms don’t resolve over time, you may need antibiotics or a corticosteroid nasal spray.
Bruxism, or teeth grinding, occurs when you unconsciously clench or grind your teeth.
Teeth grinding can cause:
Some people do not require treatment for bruxism. For people who have severe symptoms, common treatments include:
Any jaw injury, such as fractures, can cause jaw pain. In some cases, jaw pain from jaw injuries can radiate and feel like it is coming from the ears.
If you have a jaw injury, you may experience:
The best treatment for a jaw injury depends largely on its cause. Some people may require surgery and have their jaws wired shut for several weeks while the bones heal. After a jaw injury, eating a liquid diet or soft foods for a few weeks can be helpful.
Severe or chronic jaw pain requires medical attention and treatment. But some at-home remedies can manage minor jaw or ear pain. They include:
Minor or temporary jaw or ear pain is often nothing to worry about and will go away on its own. But if you experience signs of infection, talk to a doctor as soon as possible.
Signs of infection include:
Talk to a doctor if you experience severe or chronic pain in your jaw, ears, neck, or face. Also, talk to a doctor if at-home remedies don’t relieve symptoms or they don’t improve over time.
See medical attention immediately if jaw or ear pain suddenly or randomly occurs.
In most cases, mild jaw or ear pain is not a sign of a severe condition and improves over time with at-home care.
But jaw or ear pain that is severe or chronic, doesn’t respond to at-home remedies, or worsens over time requires medical attention.
Talk to a doctor if jaw or ear pain is accompanied by other symptoms, like a fever, extreme pain, or difficulty opening your mouth.
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