When chewing food is accompanied by ear pain, it generally indicates that something is wrong with the ear canal. It is discussed below.
Having pain in ear while munching food can certainly prevent you from enjoying your favorite delicacy. Pain in ear when chewing food is often an indication of ear canal becoming swollen, but it can also occur as a consequence of dental issues.
Ear Canal Infection
The ear canal is a tube that starts from the outer ear and ends at the eardrum. This type of infection affecting the ear canal is caused by the bacteria. People who scratch the ear frequently with nails, pointed objects or cotton swabs are likely to suffer from ear canal infection. The ear infection typically makes every bite of food a cause of discomfort.
Middle Ear Infections
The middle ear is a small area just near the eardrum that holds 3 tiny bones, referred to as ossicles. Ossicles transfer sound waves from eardrum to the inner ear. When the middle ear gets infected due to an infection, usually from bacteria, one may experience ear pain while having food. Middle ear infections are often diagnosed in children, especially in the age group of 6-18. People affected with common cold and seasonal flu also tend to develop this ear problem.
Inflammation of the jaw joint can also be one of the possible reasons behind pain in jaw and ear when chewing. People experiencing pain arising from jaw problems are often under the wrong impression that the discomfort is originating from ear. Poor dental hygiene or a jaw injury are generally responsible for causing swelling in the jaw joint.
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint that is a point of contact between the jaw and the skull bone. This joint is found in the front of both the ears and its normal functioning is very important for painless chewing. Any damage to this joint triggers persistent pain that radiates from the ear. Thus, TMJ problem is likely to make chewing a difficult activity due to constant radiating sharp pain in ear. In some cases, the injury to the joint remains confined around the ear.
TMJ Causes: A physical impact such as a blow on the cheeks can injure the joint causing ear pain when swallowing and chewing. Joint damage from arthritis is yet another possibility behind TMJ disorder. Frequently chewing gum or grinding the teeth can strain the muscles that provide support to the temporomandibular joint.
TMJ Symptoms: A person with TMJ problems may produce a typical clicking noise while opening or closing the mouth. Besides ear ache, TMJ disorder may also cause mild to moderate headache, especially in the morning.
In this condition, the parotid glands near the ears that secrete saliva appear swollen. These saliva producing glands are situated at the back of the jaw, in the upper region of the cheek. Bacteria proliferating in the salivary gland is one of the most common causes of parotitis. Too much use of antihistamines and neglecting oral care can also lead to swelling of the salivary glands. Parotitis patients typically show swollen cheeks and facial pain that often spreads to the ear and exacerbates while consuming food.
Examination of the painful ear from an ENT specialist will help to identify the underlying cause. As ear canal infections are bacterial in nature, they are usually treated with antibiotics. Home remedies for ear pain can also benefit to relieve discomfort. In most cases, antibiotic ear drops are often recommended for ear canal infections. However, a person with severe infection is also advised to take antibiotics orally to alleviate the pain. Antibiotics is also the first line of treatment for patients affected with parotitis.
Dental related ear pain is often the result of jaw or TMJ problems. The doctor generally prescribes painkillers like acetaminophen in order to relieve discomfort associated with TMJ disorders. On the other hand, inflammation of the jaw joint can be cured by simple ear pain relief methods like application of heating pad on the painful area.
Use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medicines like ibuprofen can also contribute to get rid of joint inflammation. If painkillers or NSAIDs, don’t work, corticosteroid drugs or botulinum toxin injections may be prescribed to reduce pain linked with TMJ problems.
To prevent teeth grinding during sleep, the doctor may recommend use of bite guard, a device that is placed over the teeth. In rare cases, a surgery is performed to correct the joint abnormality.
Change in Diet
A modification in diet is equally important to manage earaches while chewing. For instance, including food items in the diet that require a lot of chewing can aggravate the discomfort and so must be avoided. Instead, prefer soft foods like dairy products, well cooked ground meat (chicken or beef with gravy), tofu, and fruits such as ripe banana, to prevent earache from worsening.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.