DR. DONALD JOHNSON: Ear problems and your teeth

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Many people suffer from problems related to their ears such as ear pain, a feeling of pressure of fullness in the ear, or ringing in the ears (tinnitus). You may be surprised to learn that they can be related to an unbalanced dental bite — the way your teeth come together every time you swallow. And you do this 2,000 to 3,000 times each day.

Your ears are remarkable. But we don’t think too much about them until something goes wrong which can be very disturbing in many cases. These problems cause a variety of different symptoms and severity. The medical professional who specializes in ears is commonly called the ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT).

Your jaw is very closely related to the ears so problems with your bite and with the muscles controlling your jaw can actually affect your ears. This means that the way your teeth come together may be the unsuspected cause of the following symptoms:

• Pain in the ears

• Ear pressure or sense of fullness in the ears

• Difficulty clearing ears, especially at high altitudes

• Ringing in the ears — tinnitus

• Dizziness — vertigo

• Excessive ear wax

• Chronic headaches

Dental related ear problems can be experienced in one or both ears and can feel deep in the ears. It may cause pain that travels down the neck, up to the temple, or to the back of the head. It is usually made worse by jaw movements. In addition to the above symptoms, other clues include:

• Sore/tender muscles around jaw joints or anywhere in the head, neck, shoulders, or back.

• Clicking, popping, grating sounds in the jaw joints (TMJs)

• Jaw shifts to right or left, even 1-2 millimeters when opening wide.

How do the jaws and the ears relate? As the embryo develops, the jaw and ear bones start out as a single area of tissue. With growth, this tissue separates into the bones of the ear and the bones of the jaw. The movement of one of the bones of the ear, the hammer (malleus), is controlled by the tensor tympani muscle which controls the vibrations of the ear drum.

This is the connecting thing! The nerve which controls this muscle, the tensor tympani, is the same nerve which controls our chewing muscles. Therefore, any signals sent along this nerve pathway can affect the muscles or the jaw joint as well as the ear. Are you old enough to remember the old party lines on the phones of yesterday? If not, then you are young enough to understand merging calls on your smartphone.

The ears and the jaw joints are both connected by these nerves and they are very close to each other in the body. Your jaw is attached to your skull where your TMJs are located and the part of your skull which lies between the ears canals and these joints is very thin. If you place your little fingers inside your ears and feel the movement of the joints as you open and close. You can see that if these joints and displaced by an unbalanced bite, they could interfere with the proper working of your ears.

So you can see that problems with your jaw joints can affect the ears. And the most common cause of the chewing muscles to tense up or for the TMJ’s to dislocate is an unbalanced bite — your teeth don’t come together properly. This means that the upper teeth and the lower teeth do not come together properly providing the proper support for the jaw against the skull. The teeth must come together each and every time you swallow (2,000 to 3,000 times daily). If your bite is unbalanced or unstable from poorly aligned teeth, missing teeth, an accident involving whiplash, etc., these chewing muscles must work too hard to get the teeth together. The chewing muscles can shorten and stiffen up and develop trigger points which can result in pain in any area in your body from the shoulders up to the top of your head. Headaches and the other symptoms described above can be a natural result.

Take time to understand that your health is a priceless possession. An evaluation of your dental bite may be a worthy investment, especially if you have seen many health professionals and haven’t gotten the relief you want. The “ringing” in your ears and well and your headaches and neck pain could be a thing of the past.

• • •

Dr. Donald Johnson founded Heartfelt Headache Relief in Coeur d’Alene to help patients stop their pain and live free with no limits! His office is at 114 W. Neider Ave., near Costco. The website for more information is www.HeartfeltHeadacheRelief.com and the office phone is 208-667-4551. Schedule an appointment today!

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