Given their proximity to one another, it should come as no surprise to discover swelling in the jaw can lead to pain and inflammation of the ear. As the fluid collects in the tissues causing puffiness and discomfort, the pressure to expand extends to the tympanic bone--the structure that separates the inner ear from the oral cavity. As this pressure increases, the discomfort spreads from the jaw to the ear. If left untreated, it can continue to spread to the face, neck and even shoulders. The right actions can help alleviate these symptoms, reducing physical discomfort.
If you are suffering from a swollen jaw, the first thing you should so is take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen or aspirin. This will reduce swelling and subsequent pain.
Once you have taken the proper dose of medication as determined by the package instructions, further reduce the tissue damage with ice. Wrap an ice cube in a clean cloth and hold it against the affected area for 15 minutes. Move the ice over the area in small circles: This will help prevent damage to the skin.
Then remove the ice and allow the tissues to thaw for 45 minutes. Repeat the ice treatment up to six times in a day for 48 hours after the swelling begins.
If you are still experiencing jaw and ear pain after 48 hours of ice and ibuprofen, try switching to heat. Apply a warm compress or heating pad for 20 minutes at a time two to three times a day. Heat causes blood vessels to expand, increasing circulation in the affected area.
Gently massage the jaw area as it warms and the pain subsides. Try to stretch the jaw muscles, slowly moving your jaw from side to side. Additionally, you can fill your bathtub with hot water and submerge yourself, holding your head just far enough below the surface for the water to cover the jawbone.
Strenuous chewing is bound to aggravate a sore jaw; therefore, until the situation is under control, try not to eat foods that require extra effort. For example, bagels require a disproportionate amount of jaw action, as does steak. Gum is an obvious no-no, as are sticky candies such as caramels. Choose soft foods such as yogurt, cottage cheese, soup or pasta, at least until the pain subsides.
If your situation does not improve after two weeks of self-care, or if your symptoms worsen, seek professional medical assistance as soon as possible.