Face Pain Blame Game: Ear or Tooth


PainSometimes you have a toothache. Sometimes you have an earache. And sometimes you’re not sure if the pain is coming from your tooth or your ear. This inability to pinpoint exactly what is causing your pain is due to the proximity of your maxillary molars (upper back teeth) to your sinuses. Because the two areas are so close and when one is irritated, the other can be as well, when you are hurting, all you know is that something isn’t right. But how can you tell where the problem is?

Let’s start by comparing the symptoms of each ailment:

Tooth Pain

  • Pain (sharp, throbbing, constant, or only when pressure is applied)
  • Fever
  • Swelling
  • Hot/cold sensitivity
  • Bad taste in mouth
  • Drainage from tooth
  • Bad breath

Ear Pain

  • Pain in or around ear
  • Fever
  • Sinus Issues
  • Dizziness
  • Discharge
  • Hearing loss

As you can see, toothaches and earaches share some symptoms, but there are some tell-tale differences. If you have an unpleasant taste in your mouth or bad breath, or taking a bite of ice cream literally sends shivers down your spine, it’s more likely that your tooth is causing the discomfort. However, if your pain is accompanied by congestion, sneezing or any other sinus ailment, your ear could be the problem.

Unfortunately, the diagnosis isn’t always that easy, so if you are experiencing consistent pain around this area, you should be examined by a doctor or a dentist. Which one? Revisiting the symptoms we listed above will help you determine which type you should see first.

If you do think your ear is the problem, schedule an appointment with one of our expert physicians at Westwood Ear, Nose and Throat. When you come in, we will take the time to sit down with you and discuss your symptoms and medical history. Next, we’ll perform a series of tests to get to the bottom of what is causing your earache, including whether or not you have larger sinus issues at play. If we do discover that it’s an ear or sinus issue, we’ll develop an individualized treatment plan that fits your lifestyle. That said, if we figure out that it is indeed a dental issue, we’ll clearly explain our findings and refer you to a dental professional.

Stop trying to guess where the throbbing ache on the side of your face is coming from; call us at (888) 230-3715 and schedule an appointment to find out for sure. With four conveniently-located offices around the state, getting to us won’t be a pain.

For information on all things ear, nose and throat, visit the Westwood ENT website and blog.

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