Head and Ear Pain
John Hackbarth, DDS
The patient’s call to the office went something like this: “I am trying to get help. I have seen many healthcare providers in the past to help me with ear pain and head pain, but so far they have been of no help. I have had this pain for years and not only do I have this pain, but now I can barely open my mouth. I refuse to take any more pain medication, and I need some help. A friend suggested you. Can you help?” This patient was referred to me by another patient who I had helped get out of pain. Helping patients get out of pain that is affecting their daily life is something we love to do. When we see a new pain patient, the exam and consultation is very important. We listen to people tell of their history, their pains and other symptoms. We gather this information because we know what things to look for, concerning head, neck and ear pain, and how to explain why they hurt. This listening and education session is the first step to resolving the pain issues. We take photos to help explain and educate what we see so we can all be on the same page.
As mentioned in the phone call, the patient has not been able to find solutions for her pain from other healthcare providers. Many people with pain like this seek the help of an MD who refers them to an ENT, and if the ENT does not know the answer, they are referred to a neurologist A MRI is taken only to find nothing pathological, with no answer as to why the patient is in pain. This is a very common and frustrating occurrence to tens of thousands around the world. The teeth, and how they fit together, and their position in the upper and lower jaws, along with the joints are one of the things that is responsible for these types of pain if they are not functioning correctly. One of the reasons people have trouble is that the upper and lower jaws don’t match. During a growth, one of the jaws did not develop to its potential size. One common problem is that the upper jaw is smaller than the lower jaw. This is one of the reasons for crooked teeth. Think of a room that is designed to be 10×10, with chairs fitting perfectly along each well.
If the carpenters made the room too small, say 9×9, the chairs would be jumbled up just like the teeth become. The upper jaw is supposed to be bigger than the lower, allowing the lower to close with no strain of the muscles that do the opening and closing. IF the lower jaw is too small, the lower teeth also become crooked in order to fit with the upper. Many people with this problem grind and wear on their front teeth, because they slide their jaw forward to where the joints are more comfortable. The wear is there, because the teeth are always there, for that is where the brain tells the jaw to go.
The real problem is that the person cannot chew or bite with the front teeth forward. Eating and swallowing only happens when the jaw is pulled back by the chewing muscles. Why the ear pain? This is due to the jaw joint being pushed back too far in the area of the ear during chewing and swallowing. If you wore shoes that were too tight, something is going to hurt, and it is usually the toes. There is no room. Likewise, if you jaw joint is being pushed back, it can cause ear pain. Headaches are usually due to the overworked muscles involved in chewing, breathing, talking and swallowing. You can understand that this is a complicate condition that must be properly evaluated and before treatment to bring things back into balance and relieve pain.