Chronic Headaches? Could Be TMJ!

You may have heard about TMJ disorder, but did you know that this jaw problem can cause earaches, headaches, tingling fingers, and even chronic migraines?

Your TMJs, or temporomandibular joints, connect your jaw to your skull, just below your ears. These hinge joints allow motion of the mouth, so the jaw can move back and forth, up and down, and sideways. For a number of reasons, the TMJs may become misaligned. The jaw, then, does not naturally sit in proper position. Muscles and nerves around the TMJ have to compensate to hold the jaw in the correct position. This causes muscle fatigue and pain signals. Tired muscles may jerk during sleep, and as a result, teeth grinding and clenching can occur. This condition is called bruxism. TMJ initiates a vicious cycle of tooth wear, and pain can range from mild to severe.

While surgery may be necessary, many people find that non-invasive splint therapy alleviates TMJ disorder. Dr. Fondreist has studied TMJ disorder, as well as bruxism, and he offers a number of non-surgical treatment options. Various splints, or mouth pieces, are available to correct jaw misalignment so that muscles and nerves relax, pain stops, and bruxism ceases. Wearing an oral appliance at night is sufficient for many patients, but some also wear it during the day. People respond differently to this treatment. For some, muscles reprogram over time, the jaws reestablish proper alignment, and treatment can end. Others wear their appliance indefinitely.

In some cases, wear on back teeth is the cause of jaw misalignment. Restoring the affected teeth with crowns can solve the issue. Physical therapy and habit changes (no gum chewing, for instance) can also help alleviate TMJ disorder.

Call Dr. Fondriest at Lake Forest Dental for your TMJ evaluation and consultation.

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