Although TMJ is focused in your jaw, it can have effects throughout the body. One of the most common symptoms of TMJ is headache. In fact, headaches are so common in TMJ that many doctors will misdiagnose TMJ as a tension headache or migraine.

And now a new analysis shows that worsening headaches are actually a significant predictor of future TMJ diagnosis.


One of the things that has hampered TMJ treatment is the lack of good science on the subject, especially large-scale studies. The OPPERA study (Orofacial Pain: Prospective Evaluation and Risk Assessment) sought to help overcome this problem by recruiting over 3000 subjects who didn’t have TMJ. These subjects were followed for three years and monitored for various conditions, especially TMJ.

The goal was to answer many serious questions about TMJ, such as how many people developed the condition, and who was at the highest risk for developing TMJ. The study has already logged many important conclusions, but ongoing analysis of the data continues to yield new insights, such as this conclusion about headaches and TMJ risk.

Headaches are a sign of TMJ

Headaches and TMJ Risk

This study showed that people who reported headaches at the beginning of the study were more likely to develop TMJ by the end of the study. Those with migraines were 67% more likely to develop TMJ. And those with mixed headache, a combination of migraine and tension headache, were 411% more likely to develop TMJ. And the more frequent your headaches, the more likely you are to develop TMJ. People who report frequent headaches are about twice as likely to develop TMJ as those with less frequent headaches.

And people who are diagnosed with TMJ are more likely to experience a worsening of their headaches. Migraine headaches were actually the most likely to worsen with TMJ. People with TMJ were 280% more likely to see their migraines get worse than people without TMJ.

Is TMJ the Cause of Your Headaches?

The way this study is set up, it might lead you to the conclusion that headaches cause TMJ, but it’s actually more likely that TMJ and headaches have a reciprocal relationship. And just as likely that TMJ is causing headaches. In fact, this seems to be the insight we should take from the almost triple risk of worsening migraines experienced by people with TMJ.

This study was designed to include only people not currently diagnosed with TMJ. But many people with TMJ can actually go undiagnosed for years, thinking that they only have headaches.

But because of the design of the study, researchers concluded that it was the headaches and migraines that were causing the TMJ, and that better migraine treatment could potentially reduce the risk of TMJ.

But it’s more likely the opposite: better TMJ treatment will reduce the risk of migraines. And people who aren’t getting good results from their migraine treatment should consider seeking TMJ treatment.

If you are currently suffering with headaches and not getting good results, it may be that TMJ is the true cause of your pain. To learn whether TMJ treatment can help your headaches, please call 201-546-8512 today for an appointment with a River Edge TMJ dentist at the River Edge Dental Center for TMJ, Sleep Apnea, & Reconstructive Dentistry.