Is TMJ Responsible for Your Headaches?
There are many headache causes, so it’s important to determine whether TMJ or something else is to blame for your headaches. Here are three clues to look for:
- Other TMJ Symptoms: TMJ headaches aren’t normally your only symptom of TMJ. Check the list to see if there are other indicators you might have TMJ.
- Headaches Related to Jaw Activity: If your headaches follow periods of intense jaw activity, such as chewing a tough meal or snack, or talking a lot during the day, then it’s more likely that your headache is TMJ-related.
- Eliminate Other Common Causes: Make sure your headaches aren’t related to common headache triggers such as dehydration, overexertion, alcohol consumption, and the like.
During your exam, we will use a number of measurements to determine whether you have jaw dysfunctions that can contribute to headaches. We can measure the tension in your jaw muscles. We will track the movement of your jaw for any irregularities and listen to the sound of the joints to identify the movements of the components. We will also use T-Scan digital bite measurements to identify the amount of force coming down on each and every tooth. We’ll immediately see if some teeth are experiencing more force than others. These measurements will tell us if you have bite dysfunctions that could be causing headaches.
If you think your headache may be TMJ-related, consider the following sections to see how they may be tied to your jaw dysfunction.
Tension Headaches and TMJ
Tension headaches are the most common headache type. They are caused by muscle contractions in the head. The muscles of mastication (chewing) are the strongest muscles in the head, and they can contribute significantly to tension headaches. Your jaw muscles also interact with other muscles in the head, so can cause tension headaches indirectly.
Migraines and TMJ
Migraines are a little mysterious, still, so that their causes is only partly understood. However, the trigeminal nerve and its branches seem to be intimately involved in the trigger process. The branches of the trigeminal nerve spread across the face, interacting with the muscles of mastication and other jaw-and-related muscles. When these muscles are out of balance or overactive, they can put pressure on the trigeminal nerve branches, leading to overstimulation of the trigeminal ganglion, which, in turn triggers migraines.
Referred Pain Headaches in TMJ
Referred pain is a somewhat mysterious process in and of itself, but it stems from the way our nerves and brain work. Our nerves aren’t like telephone lines that carry signals directly from one place to another with a kind of “caller ID” that tells the brain who is sending pain signals. Instead, our nerves are more like a river in which pain signals can all flow together, so that when there’s a surge from upstream, the brain has to guess where that surge is coming from. The brain makes guesses based on where pain signals normally come from, which often works, but not always. Sometimes it thinks because pain is coming along a nerve that normally brings headache signals, you’re having a headache when you’re really experiencing jaw pain.
No matter the cause of your TMJ-related headache, TMJ treatment that can reduce muscle tension and restore normal function can lead to significant reduction in the frequency and severity of your migraines.
To learn whether TMJ treatment can help your headaches, please call (201) 343-4044 or email the River Edge Dental Center for TMJ, Sleep Apnea, & Reconstructive Dentistry today.