Virtually everyone has headaches from time to time. There are many reasons behind them, such as tension, sinus pressure, and injury. There is one cause, though, that is often overlooked: the jaw.
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the sliding hinge that permits your bottom jaw to move, so you can speak, eat, and drink. This joint usually works trouble-free, but if it gets inflamed due to grinding your teeth, chewing gum too much, or other actions that may lead to overuse, you may develop temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), which can sometimes cause headaches.
Randall W. Smith, DDS, at Dental Health Connection in Burlington, Massachusetts, has helped provide relief to many patients who have suffered from headaches due to TMD. Read on to find out how the TMJ can cause headaches and what some of the solutions are.
The components of the TMJ are much like any other joint in your body. The bone is covered with cartilage and shock-absorbing tissue. If the shock-absorbing tissue or cartilage wears away, or if you suffer an injury that affects the mechanics of the joint, moving your jaw could become painful. Muscles, too, may be the source of headaches, even when the joint components remain unaffected.
The most common symptoms of TMD include:
Headaches may not be the most common symptom of TMD, but they do occur, and if you have no other obvious reason for your headaches, it may be worth investigating the possibility of TMD with Dr. Smith.
If TMJ issues are believed to be causing your headaches, treatment typically follows an escalating path. Unless there’s an observable cause that suggests a specific remedy, conservative treatments are tried first.
These could include minor lifestyle changes, such as temporarily moving away from hard-to-chew foods, avoiding gum, or by using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. Ice packs can also reduce inflammation, and hot compresses can help relieve pain.
Therapies, such as relaxation techniques, may reduce stress levels if grinding your teeth is an issue. And physical therapy and home exercises can strengthen the muscles supporting your jaw. Furthermore, exciting results are being seen in using Botox® to treat teeth grinding. Botox can relax contracted jaw muscles, which can relieve the tension triggering TMD headaches.
More aggressive treatments can include oral appliances to stop nighttime teeth grinding. Dr. Smith may also suggest altering your bite with clear braces, aligners, or by slightly reshaping your teeth.
If you have headaches or other symptoms and want to see if they’re related to your TMJ, book an appointment online or over the phone with Dental Health Connection and let Dr. Smith help you get to the bottom of what’s causing your pain.