At the first sign of a headache, you probably reach for your preferred over the counter pain reliever or try a home remedy. What should you do if you have the headache that won’t go away with medicine? If these facial pains become chronic, you may struggle to determine why. The answer may be a positive diagnosis of TMJ disorder, also known as TMD. If you constantly wake up with a TMJ headache or develop one at various points throughout the day, then ask your dentist if TMD might be why, and how you can find lasting relief with personalized treatment.
Still, problems related to the temporomandibular joint can remain hidden for years. TM disorder isn’t always easy to detect because its symptoms can vary from patient to patient. For instance, the jaw dysfunction may cause your jaw joints to pop and click, or it may lead to sore and aching jaw and facial muscles. Therefore, a patient with chronic headaches or severe migraines may have no idea that the reason for their pain comes from a malfunctioning jaw joint.
Why a Jaw Dysfunction can cause a TMJ headache
TMJs refer to the two temporomandibular joints connecting your jaw to the temporal bones of the skull. These joints control your lower jaw’s movement. TMD can describe a variety of conditions that affect the alignment, health, and/or function of one or both of these joints. In addition to the joints and your jaw’s muscles, your jaw function also relies on your trigeminal nerve, which is located close to your TMJs. This nerve innervates much of your head, as well, and when TMJ disorder strikes, it can transfer the discomfort everywhere.
Common Indicators of Possible TMD
As you might guess, every individual diagnosed with TM disorder has different symptoms. This makes it especially challenging to immediately detect the condition. However, most patients of Dr. Fondriest with TMD tend to present at least a handful of the following TMJ pain symptoms:
- TMJ headache that will not go away with medication or time. Many times, these headaches are called tension headaches.
- A jaw that sticks or will not easily open or close while eating, yawning, or speaking.
- History of a head injury
- A jaw that clicks when opening or shutting.
- A feeling that the fit between the teeth is not ideal. This can lead to bruxism, or tooth grinding, behavior.
- Pain radiating from the jaw joint may travel to the head, teeth, neck, or shoulders.
- A feeling of tenderness or soreness in front of the ear and around the jaw joint.
- The inability to properly chew food or completely bite down on foods.
- Facial pain, especially in or around the ears.
- Many patients think that they have a brain tumor.
- Ringing in the ears, which is called tinnitus.
- Tooth sensitivity to heat or cold.
- Sensation of dizziness accompanied by ear or jaw discomfort.
Please note that some of these symptoms can indicate the potential presence of other disorders, too. Therefore, patients are advised to make appointments with their dentists and general physicians if necessary.
How to find relief from that headache that won’t go away with medicine
Strong pain medicines can offer short term relief of symptoms but they eventually lead to addiction. The efficacy of these medicines declines with long term use. When usage is stopped, a rebound headache is commonly experienced. The best medical advice from headache specialists suggests treating the cause of TMJ headaches and not the symptoms.
This requires doing a thorough dental examination and consultation to confirm exactly what is wrong. Once your dentist pinpoints the exact cause of your disorder, such as a misaligned bite, he/she can suggest an appropriate treatment options to restore your bite’s harmony and relieve your chronic symptoms.
Headache won’t go away – Common ways that dentists treat TMJ disorder
- Oral appliances: These appliances look a lot like the mouth guards used by athletes. They are far more more complex in design. The appliance is made to keep your mouth in a neutral position during sleep. This relieves the pressure on the jaw joint, which removes the stress on the muscles and tendons. Many headache sufferers experience fewer morning head pain with an oral appliance. The lactic acid buildup in muscles is very commonly the cause of most facial pain that won’t go away.
- Occlusal adjustment: In some cases, simply removing the enamel from the tops of the molars can relieve TM disorder pressure for patients. An occlusal adjustment restores the bite to a more proper fit. It can also take away your tendency to grind your teeth.
- Dental restorations: Do you have a number of missing teeth? Restoring your smile with dental implants or other restorative solutions could help lessen or remove the discomfort caused by TM disorder.
- Surgery: Occasionally, patients with TMD need more invasive treatment. Surgery of the jaw joint may be appropriate in these cases. However, surgery is usually one of the final treatment recommendations.
- Lifestyle habits: If you get frequent TMJ headache pain or are diagnosed with TMJ disorder, Dr. Fondriest can share lifestyle changes that may help you reduce the symptoms of the condition. Talk to him about relaxation techniques and other at-home behavior modifications.
- Physical Therapy: Muscle massages are wonderful for working the lactic acid out of those hard working muscles. This is much preferable to taking muscle relaxants.
Advantages of TMD Diagnosis and Treatment
What are the benefits of receiving a diagnosis of TMD and getting immediate treatment from your dentist? Check out some of the biggest advantages:
● Less likely to have tension type headache or TMJ headache disorder
● Your lower jaw will not stick or click as often as it moves forward and laterally
● No referred pain in other parts of your body
● Your bite will feel less “forced” or uncomfortable
● You will finally have an answer to the question of why you get migraines or other head pains
● Grinding or clenching or your teeth will be managed
● You will experience less tooth pain and sensitivity around the jaw joint
● Your overall quality of health and life will be improved
Learn more about Relieving Your TMJ headache that won’t go away, even with medicine
Among its many common symptoms, TMD can often result in long term and persistent headaches or migraines. However, you should not have to live life with daily facial pain that can get in the way of work or relaxation. To learn how you can relieve your pain, schedule a consultation with Dr. Fondriest by calling (847) 234-0517. Our practice mostly serves the Chicago metropolitan area.