Dr. Long

Most TMJ dentists will say at least 50%-60% of their adult patients have ringing in the ears (tinnitus) when they come into their office. After TMJ treatment many of these patients are without tinnitus.

Tinnitus has many causes, some of which are not fully understood. There is information in the literature that says tinnitus and vertigo (dizziness) are common complaints from patients suffering from TM disorder and some patients complain of altered hearing. Deep pain in any structure served by the trigeminal nerve can alter ear function which may be related to the dysfunctional joint.

HOW THE EAR AND JAW BONE RELATE

In the developing embryo, the jaw and ear bones start out as one and the same. As the embryo grows, these bones separate. They tiny bones of the ears are the smallest bones in our body and appropriately named for their shape; the hammer (malleus), anvil (incus), and stirrup (stapes). The movement of the hammer is controlled by a muscle called the tenor tympani. This little muscle is responsible for controlling the vibrations of the ear drum and protects our inner ear from loud sounds.

Because the ears and jaw were so closely related in our embryonic development, the nerve which controls the tensor tympani muscle happens to be the same nerve which controls our chewing muscles. Consequently, any signals sent through this nerve can affect both the muscles of the jaw and those of the ear - as if these muscles shared the same phone line.

The jaw is attached to the skull by two joints just in front of the ears. The part of your skull bone which separates the jaw joints from the ear canals is paper thin.

Actual physical or physiological cause of tinnitus is not clear. Even though some studies demonstrate that dental therapy may reduce ear symptoms. Other studies show no relationship. It’s easy to see why there is such controversy. However, more and more TMJ dentists find that in many patients the ringing disappears or at least dissipates considerably when splint therapy is performed, perhaps that is enough reason tinnitus patients should look into the possibility of an existing TMJ disorder - especially when tinnitus sufferers also experience TMJ symptoms.