Itchy Ears and TMD symptoms
The joint between the lower and upper jaw is constantly used day and night. Like other joints between bones in the body, this joint is composed of two bone surfaces, jointed together by ligaments and muscles. They are kept from painful bone to bone contact by a pillow interposed between the two allowing the joint to function smoothly and painlessly.
The bones in the joint involved with chewing are the temporal bone which contains a depression called a fossa into which the part of the lower jaw bone (mandible) called the condyle glides into. Between the temporal bone and the mandible, the pillow or capsule is held in place with ligaments which allow the capsule to move together with the condyle in the process of chewing, speaking or “parafunctional” clenching or grinding of the teeth.
The name of the joint is derived from the two bones forming the joint. These are the temporo (for temple) and mandible. The combination is called the temporomandibular joint. The type of dysfunction which commonly arises has a group of symptoms which are collectively called temporomandibular joint dysfunction or TMD for short.
The symptoms of TMD vary from person to person but some of the common complaints are pain when chewing, inability to close the teeth together fully, and inability to fully open or close the mouth.
Because the joint itself is located only a few millimeters from the internal ear, some of the symptoms can include discomfort that feels like it is coming from the ear, but actually originates from the joint.
These symptoms can include feelings of ear ringing, fullness, ear pain, vertigo, dizziness, and in some cases, feelings of itching in the area of the ears. Since itchiness can originate from inflammation or pressure, the tiny space between the ear and the jaw joint allows pressure to be transmitted to the small nerves associated with the ear, and may be the cause of this particular symptom of TMD.
Some treatments that can help alleviate TMD discomfort can actually help alleviate ear itching (pruritis) by relieving pressure in the ear areas.
When treating TMD a splint may be fashioned that separates the teeth enough to allow the joint to have some additional space between the condyle and the temporal bone. This reduces the pressure on the ear area and in return reduces the pressure on the nerves that produce the itchy sensation.
A recent study has indicated that patients with TMD symptoms also commonly have ear symptoms including itching, ear pain, and feelings of ear fullness. Women and TMD symptom severity also had a higher incidence of ear itching.
In symptomatic cases of TMD, splint therapy as an initial reversible and non-invasive therapy has been found to be very effective. To find out if dental splint therapy can be helpful, please contact your dentist when you find you have uncomfortable symptoms of TMD.