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The Link Between Your Frequent Headaches and TMJ

The Link Between Your Frequent Headaches and TMJ

While it’s not uncommon to experience an occasional headache as a result of stress or inadequate sleep, having recurring headaches associated with jaw or facial pain may be a sign of TMJ disorder. Without treating the underlying cause, these headaches can occur more frequently and interfere with your daily activities. 

Your TMJs, or temporomandibular joints, are located in front of your ears on both sides of your head. These joints act as hinges, allowing your lower jaw to move sideways and up and down. 

If these joints are damaged by a TMJ disorder, pain can result. The effect can result in a range of symptoms, including jaw and facial pain, difficulty opening and closing your jaw, and headaches. 

While it’s common to experience headaches as a result of a TMJ disorder, only a medical professional can determine the cause of your condition. Dentist Eric R. Koch, DDS, and the team at Advanced Dental Care of East Texas in Jasper, provide expert diagnosis and treatment for people experiencing chronic TMJ headaches. 

Depending on your condition, Dr. Koch recommends treatment options to remedy your TMJ disorder and eradicate the source of your headaches.

Understanding TMJ disorders

Since the TMJ slides and hinges, it is more likely to experience wear-and-tear. The TMJ and surrounding bones are covered in cartilage and separated by a small shock-absorbing disc that helps your TMJ move smoothly. 

TMJ disorders result if the cap of cartilage becomes damaged, misaligned, or eroded. That type of damage can result from issues such as arthritis, trauma, a structural misalignment, or frequent teeth clenching and grinding. 

If the TMJ disc is damaged, it may dislocate when you close your mouth and reposition itself when you open it, causing a pop or crack. TMJ disorders can also occur for no apparent reason. 

TMJ disorders can cause a dull, aching pain that starts and stops. Symptoms can also include an intense and excruciating pain that affects your jaw, face, neck, head, or shoulders. Toothaches, earaches, and pain when opening and closing your mouth are common.

How TMJ disorders are linked to headaches

Your TMJ works together with a complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs, and bones to support the movements needed for chewing and speaking. When your TMJ is damaged, the condition can affect your facial nerves and cause pain when you move your jaw. 

Facial pain or muscle tightening from TMJ damage can extend along your cheek, lower jaw, and neck. Since your TMJ is attached to your skull, the pain can also radiate to your temple and head, causing headaches.

Symptoms of TMJ headaches

Headaches are common symptoms of many health conditions. However, certain characteristics of a headache can indicate its underlying cause. 

Headaches caused by TMJ disorders are typically accompanied by one or more of the following characteristics:

TMJ headaches typically aren’t accompanied by common migraine characteristics, such as fatigue, nausea, and light and sound sensitivity.

Treating TMJ headaches

If a TMJ disorder is causing your headaches, treating the underlying condition can often improve and even eradicate your headaches. A comprehensive dental evaluation using dental X-rays, CT scan, or MRI may be used to evaluate your TMJs, teeth, jaws, and surrounding bones and soft tissues to determine an appropriate course of treatment.

Treatment for headaches associated with TMJ disorders typically starts with one or more of the following conservative therapies:

At Advanced Dental Care of East Texas, you can also take advantage of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy. The treatment delivers low-voltage electrical currents through your skin. The currents are directed to areas near the nerves where your pain occurs or at trigger points for pain, such as your neck.

If conservative therapies aren’t successful, you may benefit from surgery to repair or replace the damaged TMJ. That can correct the alignment of your jaw and reduce muscle strain and teeth grinding.

It’s never wise to ignore recurring headaches. Find out whether a TMJ disorder might be causing your headaches. Call our office today to schedule an appointment or reach out to our team online. 

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