Many people who suffer from a toothache also develop an earache and sometimes even a headache. This makes many people question, “Can toothache cause earache?” and if yes, “What is the connection between a toothache and earache?”
Can Toothache Cause Earache?
The truth is that you can feel a pain in another part of the body, which is actually causing pain in a different part of the body. In medical terms, this type of pain is called “referred pain.” This is mostly due to the complex nervous system our body has, especially around the teeth, head, eyes, and ears; hence, in most cases, referred pain happens in the same mentioned areas.
So, you can actually feel an earache as a toothache, or a toothache as an earache, or even a headache as a toothache and vice-versa. In fact, according to Dr. Bruce Wilderman, a leading dentist in Philadelphia and head of the cosmetic dentistry in Doylestown, PA, ear pain can be the sign of a dental problem.
Exploring the Connection
In many cases, people experience a toothache and earache at the same time while only one body part is causing it. An earache can be caused by an ear infection, but since an ear infection is not as common as a toothache, people should consider the fact that, in most cases, earache is due to the pain in their teeth, gums, or jaws. This pain travels mostly through the facial nerve as well as the trigeminal nerve that goes from our jaws to our ears and then to our brains.
What Oral Cavity Problems Cause Earache?
Here are a few major dental problems that can be a reason for your earache.
1. Tooth Decay
A bad cavity or a damaged tooth can be very painful, which often radiates to the ear area. In many cases, when one of the molars get affected, you can feel pain in the back of your mouth along with your ear.
2. Root Canal Infections
Root canal infections are another common cause of a toothache and subsequently earache. When the bacteria reach the dental pulp, a sensitive material right beneath the hollow chamber of our tooth causes severe pain.
In some cases, the pain caused due to molar infection can also travel to your ears. A quick way to treat this dental problem is root canal therapy, which is actually the removal of infected pulp. You may also feel an earache in case your tooth that underwnet root canal treatment gets infected again.
3. Teeth Grinding
Teeth grinding, also known as Bruxism, is also another common cause of an earache. It refers to the shifting and clenching of the teeth when you are sleeping. This often creates stress to your jaw, damages your teeth, and results in sore teeth that may transcend to the ears.
4. TMJ Disorders
TMJ is a temporomandibular joint, which is a junction between the lower and upper jaw. It is also often rated as one of the most complex joints in the human body.
You can also feel the TMJ pain in your ear. In fact, doctors also consider an earache as a symptom of the TMJ disorder.
How Would You Know What Causes Your Earache?
Since there are many possibilities why you are experiencing an earache, here are some of the common occurrence that can help you predict what causes an earache:
- If an earache occurs simultaneously with a toothache, the chances are the cause is not your ear, but your toothache or infection. Keep in mind though that referred pain is not permanent. So, if you are experiencing earache due to a toothache, it may occur once or twice.
- When you have a throat infection, and at the same time experiencing an earache, again, the chances are your throat pain traveled to your ear, and in this case, the earache is also not persistent.
- If you are continuously suffering from an earache, the chances are there is something wrong with your ears.
Things to Do When You Have an Earache
We cannot emphasize enough that if you are feeling earache, then it can be anything. A toothache that travels to your ear, a throat pain that travels to your ear, or an infection in your ear. That being said, the management will differ.
1. Earache due to a Toothache
If your earache radiates towards your teeth and jaws, it is another sign that a toothache is a probable cause. In most cases, you can use over-the-counter pain medication to relieve both an earache and toothache, as most of these medications are effective for both. Keep in mind though that you need to visit your dentist anytime soon so that your teeth and gums can be checked and treated.
If you’re visiting a dentist for your yearly or bi-yearly checkup and suffers from a frequent earache or a headache, it is recommended to share and discuss the problem with your dentists. Keep in mind, if a toothache is the cause of your earache, you can’t get rid of your earache unless you get your teeth treated.
2. Earache due to Throat or Ear Infection
If you suspect that you have an ear or throat infection, you must immediately visit an ENT or general physician so that the problem can be resolved. These infections are not treatable with OTC meds and might sometimes require antibiotic therapy.
Nonetheless, for all types of earaches, you can consider warm or cold compress therapies for temporary relief. Just place a damp cloth over the ear for about 10 to 15 minutes, and it can temporarily resolve the pain while you travel to your doctor.
Referred pain is the best reason why we answered the question “Can toothache cause earache?” with a definite “Yes.” The medical theory is very simple; due to the complex nerves around our organs, sometimes pain travels from one body part to another. So, it is perfectly natural to feel a pain in your ear that is actually a toothache, or even a pain actually caused by an infection in your throat.
With such complexity, it is always best to visit your doctor at the earliest in case you experience an earache. Yes, you can take OTC pain relievers and consider home remedies, especially if the pain occurred at a time when you can’t immediately go to the doctor.