Migraines and TMJ

woman suffering from a migraine

Have you wondered if your headaches are caused by migraines or TMJ? If you suffer frequent headaches, you are not alone. The World Health Organization estimates that about 50% of adults (18-65) worldwide suffer from headache disorders. Of those who reported having headaches, about 30% had migraines.1 If you frequently experience the debilitating pain and nausea associated with migraines, statistics probably do not matter. You only want relief. There are various reasons for migraines, but there is one you may not have thought about…TMJ disorder. Dr. James Fondriest offers advanced treatment to help you find relief from TMJ disorders and migraines.

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. It acts like a hinge connecting the jawbone to your skull, with a joint on either side of the jaw. If you have TMJ disorder, you may experience jaw pain and stiffness in the joints. In severe cases, you may have trouble opening and closing your jaw, making it difficult to eat and even talk. Another issue with TMJ disorder is frequent headaches and migraines.

Causes of TMJ Disorder

Experts still debate the exact causes of TMJ disorder a more thorough understanding of the jaw has helped numerous patients find relief from migraines.

The main causes of TMJ disorder can include:

  • Traumatic injury to chin, jaw or the joints
  • Missing back teeth, leading to poor alignment of the jaw
  • Poor alignment of the teeth
  • Wisdom teeth
  • Bruxism (grinding of the teeth at night)
  • Chronic teeth/jaw clenching
  • Arthritis
  • Stress
  • Poor dental treatment

The reason that TMJ disorder can lead to migraines has to do with the joint’s purpose.

The temporomandibular joints are intricately connected to your head, neck and face, allowing you to eat, swallow and talk. When the joints become inflamed or disturbed by trauma or certain dental conditions, it can lead to a range of symptoms, including migraines.

Could these Migraine headaches really be caused by TMD problems?

If you or someone you know suffers from migraine headaches, you know that the pain can be debilitating. In fact, according to the National Headache Foundation, half of people surveyed with migraine headaches report that their headaches cause them to miss work and school. Even worse, 24% of those surveyed have been to the emergency room for severe migraines.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

Trouble with biting, chewing, and speaking due to a stiff jaw is common in patients with TMJ disorder, but it isn’t always a factor. Other symptoms associated with TMJ disorder can include:

  • Popping or clicking sound when you open or close your mouth
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Chronic headaches, including migraines
  • Pain and/or ringing in one or both ears (tinnitus)
  • Popping or fullness in the ears, similar to a Eustachian tube dysfunction (TMJ disorder may affect the muscles that open and close the Eustachian tube, which regulates pressure in the middle ear.)

Migraine Triggers

Several factors contribute to migraine headaches and what triggers them. The National Headache Foundation lists factors like stress, caffeine, fatigue, hormones, missing meals, and changes in barometric pressure or altitude as some triggers for headaches. Our Lake Forest dentist, Dr. Fondriest suggests one more reason you may be experiencing headaches: TMJ disorder.

How TMJ and migraines cause Headaches

Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) plays a significant role in your health. This lower jaw hinge joint is responsible for  opening and closing your mouth and chewing. Additionally, your TMJ contributes to headaches, earaches, shoulder tension, and neck pain. When a patient has these symptoms, they may seem unrelated at first, however at closer inspection, TMJ disorder may be the cause.

Many patients who have undergone TMD treatment report less migraine headaches and other reduced symptoms. If you are ready to alleviate painful or debilitating migraines, consult our Lake Forest dentist to see if TMJ disorder is triggering your headaches.

Diagnosing TMJ Disorder

Pain from TMD, or TMJ disorder, is notorious for triggering migraine headaches. The problem is many people are unaware that they have an oral health problem. TMJ disorder symptoms can include a range of problems. The diverse nature of these symptoms can make it difficult to diagnose. Your TMJ expert can check for signs of TMJ disorder which include, teeth grinding and tooth sensitivity as well as the overall health problems listed above.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a doctor or dentist will examine your jaw and probably:2

  • Listen to and feel your jaw when you open and close your mouth
  • Observe the range of motion of your jaw
  • Press on areas around your jaw to identify where you are feeling pain

An ultimate diagnosis of TMJ disorder can entail:

  • Dental x-rays of your jaw and teeth
  • CT scan to provide detailed imaged of the bones in your jaw
  • MRI to reveal problems with the joint’s disks or surrounding soft tissue

The big difference between migraines and TMJ is that migraines are a vascular problem not a muscle or joint issue.

Finding Relief

Treating TMJ disorder often begins with determining why your jaw is damaged. For instance, if your teeth are crooked, then your jaw will respond by shifting as you bite and chew. The strain can lead to TMJ disorder, and if crooked teeth are the cause, Dr. Fondriest may recommend orthodontic treatment to restore your smile and align your teeth and bite. Some bites may be more complicated to straighten, such as those that occur from a congenital jawbone defect. If one side of your jawbone is longer than the other, then your two TMJs will have trouble moving in unison, and the muscles in your jaw will work overtime to compensate. In severe cases of TMJ disorder, oral surgery may be required to rebuild your jawbone into a more symmetrical shape.

Have you been told that you have migraines or TMJ?

Aside from providing expert cosmetic dentistry services, Dr. James Fondriest has received extensive training from the world renowned L.D. Pankey Institute. Thi Institute specializes in the study of occlusion (bite) and treatment of TMJ disorders. It is considered by many to be the world’s leader in research and treatment of TMJ disorders. Dr. Fondriest is also a former Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and a caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff. We proudly serve patients in all surrounding communities in the Chicago Metro area, including the North Shore and Northwest suburbs – but we often see patients from all across the United States. To schedule your consultation, go online today or call our office at (847) 234-0517.

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