The Teething Dilemma: Does Teething Cause Ear Wax in Babies?

Written by Daisy
Last updated:
Reviewed by Margaret

Does teething cause ear wax buildup in babies? You may have noticed a correlation between your little one’s teething and an increase in their ear wax. Seeing more earwax than usual can be concerning, especially if your toddler starts grabbing or pulling their ears all the time.

But don’t worry – it’s not as scary as it seems! In this article, I’ll dive into this topic and discuss practical ways to help your baby feel more comfortable during teething.

Is an increase in earwax normal while teething?

Yes, it is. The same nerves that are responsible for tooth pain are also connected to the ear canal. As a result, teething can cause inflammation in the ear canal, leading to an increase in earwax production.

So, there is a clear connection between increased earwax and teething. If your toddler starts grabbing their ears while teething, it could be a sign of discomfort caused by the inflammation.

In the next sub-subsections, I’ll discuss some practical ways to help your baby feel more comfortable during teething.

What causes the accumulation of earwax in my baby’s ear?

Earwax buildup in a baby’s ear occurs when the body is unable to expel it at the same rate that it is produced. This natural substance plays an essential role in maintaining the cleanliness and health of a child’s ear. It traps dirt, repels water, and provides antibacterial properties to protect the canal.

The wax dries out and moves to the outer ear, where it falls out. However, if the accumulation of earwax is faster than its expulsion, it will cause a buildup in the ear.

The presence of earwax does not necessarily mean that the child’s ears are dirty or not cleaned. Although anyone can have earwax buildup, some individuals produce more earwax than others.

You can detect a significant amount of earwax by visually inspecting the baby’s ears. Additionally, yellow, waxy discharge may emanate from the ear.

Under what circumstances is earwax problematic?

If a baby’s ear canal becomes highly obstructed with wax, it can cause issues such as:

  • Reduced hearing ability
  • Ear pain
  • Itching
  • Tinnitus (ringing sounds in the ear)

Since babies are unable to communicate their discomfort, they may manifest it by tugging on their ears. Other signs include shaking their heads or exhibiting irritability.

If your baby experiences huge pain, cannot hear anything, or is demonstrating symptoms of an ear infection, you should visit a doctor.

Teething and ear infections in babies: what parents need to know

Babies often experience both teething and ear infections, which can cause confusion for parents. It’s a bit hard to figure out what’s causing their little one’s discomfort.

While teething and ear infections have different causes, they can share similar symptoms. And that makes it challenging to determine which one is the root of the problem.

Teething symptoms can start weeks before the teeth actually appear. And that prolongs the uncertainty for parents.

Ear infections are common in children due to their small ear tubes. Unfortunately, there’s not much that you can do to prevent them. The good news is that most kids outgrow them by age three.

P.S. I love this short tutorial by BURST Oral professional who explains everything about this topic:

Does connection really exist?

Teething may cause discomfort in the ear, but it does not directly lead to ear infections. Common colds are the primary culprit behind ear infections in infants. With many colds likely to occur before all teeth emerge, you must be aware of the symptoms of ear infections.

How to recognize classic ear infection symptoms?

Understanding the difference between teething and ear infections can be challenging. So, here are some classic ear infection symptoms to look out for:

  • In young children, an ear infection almost always goes with a high fever.
  • The most likely cause of an ear infection is actually the common cold.
  • Teething fevers are usually low-grade and short-lived. Contrary, an ear infection fever will be higher and quite stubborn to treat.
  • A teething baby usually has a slight fever at night. A baby with an ear infection usually has a fever during the whole day.
  • If your baby has between 0-3 months and has a fever over 100.4°F (38°C), take them to the doctor immediately. And, as always, go with your gut. You know your baby best.

How can I safely clean my baby’s ears?

Earwax is a natural substance helping maintain the health of your baby’s ears. It traps dirt, repels water, and has antibacterial benefits to protect the ear canal. However, if earwax buildup is causing problems for your baby, here are some safe ways to clean their ears:

Clean the outer ear with a damp cloth

Use a damp washcloth to clean the outer ear. This is usually enough to keep your baby’s ears clean and healthy.

Use ear drops

Consult with a pharmacist about using ear drops if you notice a buildup of earwax with no other symptoms. Ear drops can help soften the wax, so it falls out more easily.

Try olive oil or almond oil

Your pharmacist may recommend putting two to three drops of olive oil or almond oil in your baby’s ears. This can help to dislodge the earwax.

Never use cotton buds or other objects

Never use cotton buds, ear candles, or other objects to clean your baby’s ears. This can damage your baby’s ear and even lead to infection.

Consult with your GP

If ear drops and oils do not help, or if your baby’s earwax does not go away after a few days, consult with your GP. They may suggest continuing with the ear drops or trying a different type. In some cases, they may refer you to an ear, nose, and throat specialist for further treatment.

FAQ

Is it normal for babies to produce a lot of earwax?

Yes, it is normal for babies to produce earwax, and some babies produce more than others. Earwax helps to maintain the cleanliness and health of the ear canal. But if it builds up and causes problems, you can use safe methods to clean your baby’s ears.

Can teething cause ear infections?

Teething itself does not cause ear infections. However, the increased chewing that often goes with teething increases the risk of infection. Excess moisture in the ear canal can create an environment for bacterial growth.

What are the symptoms of ear wax buildup in teething babies?

The symptoms of ear wax buildup in teething babies are similar to those in adults. For instance, they can include earache, itching, and difficulty hearing. Ear pulling or tugging may also be a sign of a problem with the ears. 

Conclusion

Finally, here’s a short answer to your burning question “Does Teething Cause Ear Wax in Babies?” – No. 

But, although teething does not cause ear infections, it can cause discomfort in the ear. I understand that it can be a stressful experience, but please know you are not alone. As a parent who has gone through similar experiences with my own daughter, I can assure you that it will pass with time.

Thanks for reading!

Photo of author
Daisy Martinez, a Certified Financial Planner and mother of two, blends finance expertise from Ohio State and Anderson School of Management with hands-on parenting insights. Founder of "mamallove.com" and "cashsavvytips.com", she's passionate about guiding parents in financial and parenting realms.

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