TMJ Disorders: Why Your Jaw Could be Causing Your Headaches
Headaches, jaw joint pain or noise, limited mouth-opening, ear congestion, dizziness, clenching or grinding, neck pain, teeth sensitivity or insomnia? All of these symptoms could indicate issues with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Here is what you need to know about TMJ disorders.
TMJ Disorders and Headaches
When you have a headache, you probably don’t immediately think your jaw is the cause, however, it could be. The TMJ in the hinge that connects your jaw to your skull. It’s because of this joint that you’re able to talk, eat, and even laugh each day. This joint enables your jaw to move up and down side to side. Healthline explains that due to the hinge and sliding motions, this joint is more complicated than other joints in the body and can cause a variety of symptoms in the event something is wrong. Headaches are one of those symptoms.
While it’s not exactly known just why headaches come along with TMJ disorders, it is most likely due to the teeth grinding and clenching. The muscles of the TMJ run along your jaw and cheeks, sometimes these muscles can also be the source of the pain. When the muscles in your jaw tense up, like when you grind your teeth, the pain can spread to other TMJ muscles in your head and result in a headache.
Signs of TMJ Disorders
Along with headaches, TMJ disorders can also come with other symptoms. These additional symptoms can include:
- Pain or tenderness of your jaw
- Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints
- Aching pain in and around your ear
- Difficulty chewing or pain while chewing
- Aching facial pain
- Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open and close your mouth
Further, TMJ disorders can cause a ‘clicking’ sound or grating sensation when you open your mouth or eat. However, if you don’t have pain or limitation of movement associated with the clicking noise, you might not necessarily need treatment for a TMJ disorder.
What to Know about TMJ Disorders
While the term TMJ is reflective of an early notion that these disorders originated in the joint itself, more recent knowledge has shown that the true cause of joint problems often lies elsewhere. That, combined with the fact that the term TMJ doesn’t describe a disorder, we now use the exclusive term ‘TMD’ which stands for temporomandibular disorder.
Damage to these joints as a result of accidents or arthritis can be quite obvious. As other pain conditions of the head and neck can be associated with this joint, treatments frequently focus on the joint itself. However, the many signs of symptoms of TMD can often lead the patient to a physician prior to seeking dental consultation. However, seeing the dentist for this pain is usually the best option.
With modern technology, dentists have been able to run further diagnostics to better determine the source of an issue. Joint issues are frequently related to misalignment of the teeth, which can in turn cause a misaligned joint.
Your bite can be a factor in many types of pain and functional problems because of the inter-relationships of the overall musculoskeletal system. Through new technology, we can evaluate your bite and determine if it is what is leading to your TMJ pain.
TMD Treatment Options
When you come in for TMJ pain, we will begin by examining the mouth through X-rays, CT scans, or even an MRI. If you do have TMD, the following treatment options could help you:
- Pain relievers and anti-inflammatories. If over the counter medications aren’t enough to relieve your TMJ pain, your doctor or dentist may prescribe stronger pain relievers for a limited time.
- Tricyclic antidepressants. These medications, though mostly used for depression, can help for pain relief and bruxism (teeth grinding) control in small doses.
- Muscle relaxants. This type of medicine can be used for a few days to relieve pain caused by muscle spasms.
- Mouth guards. Patients with TMD often benefit from wearing a mouth guard to protect their teeth from grinding or clenching.
- Physical therapy. Exercises and gentle stretching can help strengthen the jaw muscles along with heat and ice.
- Botox injections. These can help paralyze the jaw muscles temporarily for pain relief.
- Bite correction. Correcting a misaligned bite can help relieve pressure on the jaw and the joint.
Make an Appointment with Dr. Ania
If you believe you could be suffering from pain due to TMD, make an appointment with Dr. Ania today. Call us today at (303)-872-9940 to learn how we can best help you and your pain.