TMD Therapy and Headaches

The human jaw is a marvel of engineering that can produce hundreds of pounds of pressure. However, all that pressure can lead to long-term issues if it's misdirected. Many people develop a jaw clenching or tooth grinding habit in response to stress. When that habit continues for years, it can put a lot of wear and tear on the joints connecting the jaw to the skull. These are known as the temporomandibular joints, or TMJ. Your TMJs normally just help you bite and chew, but sometimes they can become a cause of recurrent headaches or even migraines instead. If you can't seem to get your headaches to stop no matter what you try, it's time to investigate if you're having TMJ headaches.

Why Does Tooth Grinding or Jaw Clenching Start?

The natural resting position of your jaw involves only the smallest amount of contact between the top and bottom teeth. If you're dealing with a lot of stress, you can unconsciously begin clenching your jaw. It may occur throughout the day, but most likely it's going to take place while you're asleep. This makes it difficult to notice and tricky to stop. Some people begin grinding their teeth because of side effects from a medication or other illness. In these cases, you may need to change medications or treat the underlying illness before getting TMJ treatment.

How Do You Know It's a TMJ Headache?

Headaches can have so many potential causes, some harder to treat than others. If you're experiencing headaches or migraines due to TMJ problems, you may also experience specific symptoms like:

  • Pain that extends into the jaw joints or into the ears
  • Throbbing sensations in the temples or behind the eyes and ears
  • Pain localized in the very back of the head where the jaw muscles end
  • Neck stiffness and pain along with the headache
  • Locking in the jaw in certain positions
  • Loud clicking in the jaw, especially if it's accompanied by pain
  • Trouble chewing, speaking, or using your jaw normally
  • Grinding damage on the teeth
  • Tinnitus that has only recently started.

When your headache is caused by a temporomandibular disorder, you won't develop a noticeable sensitivity to light, sound, or smells. If you're reacting strongly to certain things when your headaches kick in, you could be dealing with migraines or other headache disorders rather than a TMJ issue.

Why You Need to See a TMJ Specialist

No matter which symptom of a TMD is bothering you the most, you could get relief from all of the side effects with proper treatment. Ending the pressure and inflammation on your TMJ can result in fewer headaches, better sleep, less damage to your teeth, and fewer jaw-related symptoms like clicking or stiffness. Treating a complex condition like this can have long-reaching positive effects, such as higher self esteem and new opportunities thanks to a more outgoing approach to life. You may assume you can treat this kind of problem on your own, but your dentist needs to examine your jaw and determine exactly what's causing the damage to it. You may need to combine treatments, such as massaging your jaw multiple times a day and wearing a guard at night to protect your teeth. Braces and other forms of dental aligners are often recommended as a way of getting the jaw to sit more comfortably. Some severe cases may need surgical intervention, although this is rarely required for most temporomandibular disorder cases.

TMJ and Migraines

The majority of migraines have no specific cause and are therefore quite difficult to treat. Some migraines may be triggered by TMJ problems, even if they're not entirely caused by them. Reducing inflammation and tension in your jaw may not entirely prevent migraines from returning, but it may reduce the number you have per month or the severity of them. Patients suffering from both TMJ and migraines may find that a flare-up in jaw tightness also corresponds with the early stages of a migraine. Or the connection may be reversed, with the jaw clenching occurring as a side effect of the migraine. No matter the connection, it's possible to treat both conditions and experience relief on all fronts.

Don't resign yourself to a daily headache routine or pain and stiffness in your jaw. Treat both problems at once by seeing a TMJ specialist. Schedule an appointment with us here at Aesthetic Dentistry of Stuart. We're your source for supportive care that can offer you long-term relief from pain and other symptoms. Tackle your TMJ headache with our help to take back your health and reclaim your self-esteem. If you need restoration work from years of tooth grinding or jaw clenching, we can also help with crowns, veneers, and more.

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