How Ignoring Ear Pain Could Destroy Your Teeth

Woman with earache

Many people don’t realize the connection between oral health and general health. Many symptoms of temporomandibular disorders appear in other areas of the body. Your teeth, gums and jaw can create wide-ranging effects, impacting everything from your nutrition to your posture. To maintain well-being, it is important to pay attention to sometimes insignificant cues, take excellent care of your mouth, and see qualified doctors for assistance. Recently, a 41-year-old woman from Tennessee learned this lesson the hard way. When she didn’t seek appropriate oral health treatment for her earaches, she paid the price in the eventual loss of her teeth. Find out how ignoring ear pain can destroy your teeth and discover how MedCenter TMJ’s experienced doctors can help.

Shelly’s Story

Shelly Griffin never realized her story would become a cautionary tale about the dangers of ignoring key oral health symptoms. The Californian reports that Griffin began suffering from persistent earaches. Thinking this “bad pain” was the result of infection, “she visited her doctor, [but] was told that her ears were fine. Griffin continued to deal with the pain in her ears until she went to the dentist for a check-up.”

It turned out the true source of her ear pain was much more serious and difficult to treat than a simple infection—she had actually been “[grinding] her teeth in her sleep for eight years.” For nearly a decade, she had unknowingly been suffering from bruxism, “clenching or grinding of the teeth” during sleep. The pressure exerted on her jaw while gnashing her teeth led to what felt like ear pain. Her dentist “told her that her teeth were worn down and could lead to problems with TMJ. The temporomandibular joints, called TMJ, are the joints and muscles that make it possible to open and close your mouth.”

Griffin’s case went so long without proper treatment that it became quite advanced. She ultimately had to have her upper teeth replaced with a removable prosthesis, and will likely need a denture to replace the bottom teeth as well. Griffin warns other patients not to make the same mistakes she did: “Teeth problems can make your ears hurt. It is important to catch the problem before it gets as bad as mine…I am only 41 now and that is too early to start dealing with false teeth.”

Know Your Symptoms

Knowledge is power—if you can spot the signs of TMD early on, you can alleviate discomfort and manage this condition much more successfully. There are many types of TMD—this condition can result from tearing, stretching, misalignment, arthritis, or any other form of damage to the TMJ. You may be suffering from TMD and should contact our office for an appointment if you experience:

  • Consistent headaches, especially upon waking.
  • Pain in your temples. This can be sharp or dull, and may be persistent or come in waves.
  • A sore jaw.
  • Muscular pain or stiffness in your neck, back or shoulders.
  • Difficulty opening or closing your mouth.
  • Vertigo (a dizzy, unbalanced sensation).
  • A scraping, popping or clicking sound when moving your jaw.
  • Tinnitus (a ringing in the ears) or earache, like Griffin had.

TMD Treatment Options

If you do suffer from TMD, it is important to begin treatment as soon as possible. After diagnosing you, Dr. Auvenshine and Dr. Pettit will create a personalized treatment plan to suit your needs. In most cases, this involves wearing a custom-made appliance to keep your jaw in proper position. Other modalities are introduced to help calm the inflammation and muscle tension. We will work closely with you to help you regain the comfortable function of your mouth so you can eat, speak and smile confidently.

We Can Help You Spot the Signs of TMD

Learn from Shelly Griffin’s story—know your mouth better and pursue appropriate treatment if you suffer from any unusual symptoms. Our dedicated team can help educate you about your oral health and make recommendations to preserve your well-being. Contact MedCenter TMJ today to find out more or schedule a consultation.

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