Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders (TMD) are commonly associated with pain in the jaw. And, while jaw pain is one of the main symptoms of TMD, it is also important to understand there is other pain associated with this condition. 

Let’s take a closer look at ear and sinus pain as they relate to TMD and craniofacial pain.

What is the connection with the ears?

Other than when you were a child, you may not have experienced pain in your ear—or at least enough to notice it. However, ear problems are also linked with your TMJ disorder.  If you are suffering from TMD, ear pain and other symptoms are very common and predictable. 

The muscle that determines the size of the Eustachian tube (ear pressure) directly influences the same nerve that serves the jaw muscles and TMJ.  As a result, you might experience ear pain due to the changes in the way the Eustachian tube affects the ear.  

What is the connection with sinuses?

When you suffer from TMD, you can also experience pain in your sinuses. Sinus symptoms can often be mistaken for the common cold, sinusitis and other infections.  If you suffer from TMD, you might experience pain and pressure in your sinuses, even though there is no presence of sinus disease, infection or inflammation.  This happens because of mechanisms of referral, which means the site of the symptoms is not the origin of it.  

Your jaw muscles can also refer pain to the sinus region, making a diagnosis difficult.  Muscles that are tight, inflamed, and fatigued due to overuse behaviors and sleep bruxism commonly lead to sinus pain.  

As a result, TMD therapy that reduces muscle problems can help provide relief of the sinus symptoms. You can also try jaw exercises, jaw muscle conditioning, massage, bite plates, and injection therapy to help relax your tense, overworked muscles to find relief from your sinus pain.

Dentists should seek further education to learn more about TMD and how treatment can make a difference for your patients.