The Dental Health and Hearing Loss Connection
We think of brushing, flossing, and visits to the dentist as activities to protect our dental health. Did you know you could be protecting your hearing as well? Turns out that dental health and hearing loss may be connected.
We know nasties lurk in our mouth. That’s why we brush, floss, and rinse. Not only are we removing food particles and plaque, we are trying to ward off bacteria.
These bacteria can enter your blood steam and cause infection and inflammation. If the inflammation narrows your arteries and blood vessels, it can lead to hearing loss. One factor in the death of the hair cells in the ear that are so vital to good hearing is ample blood circulation. Reduce the blood flow to those tiny blood vessels in the inner ear and the hair cells die, never to be replaced.
If the bacteria lead to inflammation in the vessels in the brain, dementia may not be the only result. The portion of the brain that processes signals from the auditory nerve also relies on blood circulating through tiny vessels.
Those molars that erupt in our teens may not bring wisdom, but they can bring jaw pain, headaches and earaches. Impacted wisdom teeth can become infected, and this infection can lead to inflammation. If you aren’t sure if inflammation and hearing loss are related, see the above paragraph on bacteria. So while wisdom teeth can’t cause hearing loss, if they become a factor for infection, then they can be associated with hearing loss. If you have problems with wisdom teeth, get to the dentist right away.
TMJ Hearing Loss
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the mandible to the skull. The mandible is the jaw. TMJ disorder is a chronic or acute inflammation of the joint. It can be very painful. It can make it difficult to eat or speak. It can also lead to a specific form of hearing loss known as TMJ hearing loss. This is once again due to inflammation. In addition, the nerve pain signals may be picked up by the inner ear nerve pathway. If this happens, the ear reacts to the pain by contracting the muscles. If the ear contracts muscles too often, the inner ear can come out of alignment. The good news is that TMJ hearing loss is usually only temporary. When the TMJ issue itself is addressed, the hearing loss subsides.
Regular dental check-ups are important to maintain healthy teeth and gums and protect your smile. Turns out those dental check-ups might be a little extra insurance against hearing loss as well. Now that’s something to chew on.