Ear and Jaw Pain, TMJ Painful when Chewing and Swallowing

Stephen Asked :

I had an ear infection of the right ear about 3 weeks ago and there was also some jaw pain. At first it was just some tenderness of the TMJ joint which I only felt when I chewed or massaged the joint or bit down. After a course of antibiotics (which I completed about a week ago) and using some ear drops, my doctor told me that the ear infection has settled down and the jaw pain should go away.

Over the past 3 days, the jaw pain has become worse and it is very painful if I try to open my jaw wide. I also feel like my right cheek is slightly swollen although it is not easily visible to everybody else. There seems to be a lot of tension of the TMJ and cheek muscle and if I force my mouth wide open, I can feel something clicking although there is no clear sound. Chewing has become painful and even swallowing is causing some pain. There is also some sensitivity of the little flap over my ear holeĀ  and some tenderness behind my ear but there is no actual ear pain.

Is this normal? Has my ear infection started up again or has the infection spread? Should I see my doctor again or will it go down with time?

I do not have a fever or anything like that but my right cheek does feel a bit warmer than the left. Maybe it is just my imagination.


This question was posted under the Clicking Jaw Pain article.

Any response by the Health Hype team does not constitute a medical consultation and the advice should be viewed purely as a guide. Always consult with your doctor before making any changes to your current treatment program. The information provided in this article is not an authoritative resource on the subject matter and solely intends to guide the reader based on the questions asked and information provided.


Dr. Chris Answered :

It is possible that the ear infection has not resolved completely or a new infection has started up. It is also likely that there is an infection of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), masseter muscle or even an infection of the jaw bone itself. This is serious and you should see your doctor immediately and start up on antibiotics again if it is still a bacterial infection. There could also be an abscess which may be growing and this may also require drainage.

If your doctor confirms that there is no infection, it is possible that the TMJ joint and masseter muscle are just inflamed from strain. When you were experiencing the TMJ pain during your ear infection, it is possible that you strained the TMJ joint or masseter muscle by chewing in a manner that is different from the norm. There may be causing some swelling of the TMJ joint and/or masseter muscle which is giving the appearance of the cheek being slightly swollen. Inflammation of the joint may also explain the ‘clicking jaw’ that you are now feeling.

See your doctor immediately. The heat and swelling of the cheek, tenderness of the tragus (‘ear flap’) and behind the ear may be an indication of a spreading infection. You could also have mastoiditis which is a very serious condition. There is also a possibility that you have a peritonsillar abscess which is causing referred pain to other areas of the head. Do not wait for this to settle down on its own. You need medical attention.

  • Sareeta

    Since one week I am experiencing pain inside my left ear. While chewing, my jaw is painful and the pain inside the ear increases. I took anti inflamatory tabs for 3 days but the pain has not subsided. Now I feel the pain going far deeper inside the ear and as though it has started going down my throat, sort of itchy feeling down the troat. I also start feeling discomfort, as though both upper and lower molars are aching.. no apparent swollen cheek or redness anywhere around the ear…

  • Sareeta

    I do not have fever nor do I experience any pain while brushing my teeth..

  • Dr. Chris

    Hi Sareeta

    The problem may not be the jaw but could be an outer or middle ear infections (otitis externa or otitis media). I would advise that you have this checked up.
    At the same time, a TMJ dysfunction can cause an earache but this would not entirely explain the itchy throat. The problem more likely lies in the ear. See your doctor as soon as possible. Take note of any of the symptoms described in this article on Ear Problems.