My Ear Hurts! What Does This Mean?
“My ear hurts but I have gone to the doctor several times begging for an antibiotic and he keeps telling me that my ear looks fine!”
This is more common than you may think. Many of my patients have complained about this. They present with severe ear pain and pressure, some eye pain or pressure, pain around the temple area, and sometimes sensitive upper teeth. How could this not be an infection of some sort….right? Well the truth is, you may be suffering from temporal tendonitis.
What is Temporal Tendonitis?
Temporal tendonitis is a craniofacial pain disorder which results in the inflammation of the temporal tendon which connects the temporalis muscle on the side of the head to the mandible, or lower jaw, on the coronoid process.
After our examination, I usually discover signs of occlusal wear on a patient’s teeth, possible arthritis occurring in a patients joint, or a history of clenching. All of these, and other predisposed conditions, can contribute to temporal tendon inflammation.
If a patient has an irritated temporal tendon prior to a dental procedure (or any of the other reasons listed above), it is more likely that they will develop a tendonitis after the procedure is completed (or after taxing the tendon through normal function: yawning, eating, etc).
What Causes Temporal Tendonitis?
You may develop temporal tendonitis from:
- Trauma to the side of your face/head
- Being opened really wide for a long period of time for a dental procedure
- Yawning really wide
- Eating very hard foods
- Loss of vertical dimension of occlusion (the distance between your nose and chin is shorter than it was when you were younger – you are becoming over-closed)
- Chronic parafunction (your bite is off and your teeth do not come together appropriately)
- Hypertrophy of the coronoid process (your coronoid process, a part of your lower jaw, becomes larger than it once was)
Temporal Tendonitis Symptoms
If you have one or more of the causes of temporal tendonitis listed above and experience one or more of these symptoms, it’s time to give us a call:
- TMJ pain
- Eye pain
- Ear pain and pressure or congestion
- Limitation in opening the mouth
- Pain/pressure behind the eye
- Temporal head pain that can radiate to the forehead
- Pain and/or swelling in the cheek
- Sensitivity of the teeth, particularly the upper maxillary teeth
How Do You Treat Temporal Tendonitis?
Treatment of temporal tendonitis can involve multiple processes such as:
- Anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen
- Muscle relaxants
- A soft diet
- Physical therapy
- Biofeedback if clenching related
- Injection therapy with a long lasting local anesthetic and a steroid, sarapin, or prolotherapy
Temporal tendonitis is harder to treat through medication alone. We have several ways that we treat this condition successfully in our practice every day. Proper diagnosing is crucial and allows us to create your ideal treatment plan.
Dr. Tracy Davidian
Fellow of the American Academy of Craniofacial Pain
Fellow of the Las Vegas Institute of Neuromuscular Dentistry