Did you know that almost half of all headaches are really TMJ headaches? If you have chronic headaches, this can have a negative impact on your overall quality of life. Instead of living with the discomfort or trying to get through it with over-the-counter pain relievers, why not seek out the root cause? Often, persistent head pain is linked to a jaw joint problem known as TMJ disorder (TMD).
Oftentimes, TMJ dysfunction is accompanied by bruxism, the condition of clenching and grinding your teeth. Bruxism causes tooth wear and damage, which can also lead to TMJ dysfunction – so it works both ways.
Are you having frequent TMJ headaches?
Did you know that your headache, ear, or jaw pain, problems chewing, gum recession, sensitive or worn teeth, neck pain, and even ringing in the ears could be symptoms of Temporal Mandibular Joint Dysfunction (often called TMJ or TMD)? Many people associate TMJ with stiff jaws and nothing more, but it can actually cause a number of problems, for both your oral health and your overall well being. If you’re experiencing frequent facial pain, it’s important to see your dentist, as TMJ just might be to blame.
Causes of TMJ headaches
Your lower jaw moves on temporomandibular joints, or TMJs. When these become injured it can create a host of problems commonly referred to as simply TMJ. One of the most common problems is having headaches. But what causes damage to these joints?
- Injury to the chin or jaw
- Poor jaw alignment – malocclusion
- Missing teeth
- Improperly or partially erupted wisdom teeth
- Nighttime teeth grinding or clenching
- Clenching, either chronically or during stress
What you can do at home when having TMJ headaches
There are some things you can do at home when you are having headaches from TMJ. Using ice packs, avoiding extreme movements of the jaw (chewing gum, yawning widely, singing loudly) and sticking to soft foods can help. Learning relaxation techniques can also be beneficial, so you hold less stress in your jaw.
How A Dentist Can Help
While pain relievers can temporarily address many of the pains associated with TMJ, in many cases dental therapy can provide more lasting relief. In some cases treatment may be as simple as using a night guard to prevent nighttime grinding. Splints can also be used to stabilize the jaw. However, some patients may require more extensive measures be taken.
Head pain and temporomandibular joint disorder
If you’re pestered by nagging headaches, jaw pain, chronic earaches, or back and neck pain, you may suffer from temporomandibular joint dysfunction. The TMJs are joints that hold your jaw to your skull, and they’re located just in front of your ears. Many nerves and muscles are associated with the jaw joints, and they must work in complete harmony for comfortable function. When stress, genetics, injury, or other factors contribute to misalignment of the TMJ, jaw muscles and nerves become irritated. This causes pain that can range from moderate to debilitating.
TMJ disorder occurs when the jaw joints undergo excessive strain. Joint strain can be caused by malooclusion. Joint pain can lead to having problems fully opening and closing the mouth. Patients with the disorder report a number of uncomfortable symptoms, such as chronic headaches, but also a popping or clicking sensation in the jaw when opening your mouth, facial pain, and aches in the jaw, neck, and shoulders.
Causes of TMJ Headaches and Possible Treatment Options
Causes can range from tooth loss and misalignment to injury to the face or jaw. Stress is often a factor as well. When we assess the cause and severity of the problem, we can recommend the appropriate treatment option. For example, orthodontics or restorations can often be used to correct the bite’s balance and ease strain on the jaw joints. Malocclusion has been shown to cause occasional headaches. However, the most common treatment option is an oral appliance. Similar to a nightguard, the custom-made device is worn at night and repositions the jaw to reduce strain on the joints and stop uncomfortable TMJ-related symptoms.
Link to Bruxism
If you grind your teeth or clench them on a regular basis, you could be suffering from bruxism. Teeth grinding has been known to lead to TMJ disorder, and likewise, TMJ disorder can make teeth grinding more likely. Bruxism is a danger to your oral health not just due to its link to TMJ headaches, but also because teeth grinding can eventually damage your teeth and increase the risk of serious complications. Fortunately, an oral appliance can help prevent further damage and reduce the risk of grinding episodes.
Do You Have TMD?
Fortunately, the same oral appliance Dr. Fondriest administers to address TMJ dysfunction also manages bruxism. The custom-fitted oral appliance holds the jaw in proper alignment, relieving stress on the TMJs and preventing top and bottom teeth from touching. Over time, wearing the oral appliance at night (or during the day) may reprogram jaw muscles to maintain the correct position. However, some patients must wear their oral appliance, as needed, forever.
Learn more about how to relieve the pain of TMJ headaches
You do not have to live taking muscle relaxants or having frequent physical therapy for your TMJ pain. Dr. James Fondriest can restore your jaw’s alignment, relieve nagging TMJ symptoms, and possibly end destructive bruxism – so you can live a higher quality life!
Our team can help TMJ sufferers with an oral appliance. To learn more, schedule a consultation by calling us at 847-234-0517. We also proudly serve residents of Chicago and all surrounding communities in the Chicago Metro area.