What Does it Mean if a Toothache Causes Ear Pain?

ear pain

San Francisco and Marin CA

Toothaches — whether they start as a dull, aching pain or are excruciating from the onset — are unexpected, inconvenient and painful. Oftentimes, that pain can radiate to other places on the face and head, including in the ears. Today, our family dentist in San Francisco is tackling the reasons why toothaches can also feel like earaches.

What Causes a Toothache?

While toothaches can have many different causes, they usually occur when the nerve around or in a tooth root is irritated.

The most common causes of toothaches are:

  • Decay
  • Infection
  • Injury
  • Abscessed tooth
  • An old dental restoration, such as a crown or filling, loosens and exposes the tooth’s nerve to stimuli like bacteria, air and saliva.

Types of Tooth Pain

A toothache can start as an occasional “zing” sensation or a dull, throbbing pain. Our emergency dentist in Marin strongly recommends calling a dentist with any onset of dental pain, especially because a toothache often starts with a small pain and quickly grows to be nearly unbearable. It’s best to reach a dentist early.

Could a toothache cause ear pain?

Pain in any part of the face, jaw or head can travel, via the cranial trigeminal nerve, to any other place in the head or face because the nerve branches out to various cranial places, including the forehead, cheek and lower jaw. The trigeminal nerve runs from the upper and lower jaw, around the jaw joint, and into the head to connect to the spinal column. This explains why toothaches often radiate to other areas like the head, face, neck and ears.

An abscess can also cause a toothache. An abscessed tooth is caused by an infection that leads to facial swelling and extreme pain. Left untreated, the swelling and infection can spread, causing pain in the ears and surrounding teeth. An abscessed tooth can also be life-threatening if infection spreads to the heart or brain.

Abscessed teeth are very serious, which is another reason our dentist recommends seeking a diagnosis and treatment for tooth pain right away.

Emergency Dentist in the Bay Area

No one wants to think about a toothache, but if the time ever comes when you begin to experience dental pain, it’s best to immediately schedule an exam with our Bay Area family dentist at Glen Park Dental. If you’re experiencing pain that radiates to your head, face or neck, give us a call immediately at (415) 799-3900.