Treating Head Discomfort and Migraines caused by TMJ/TMD
TMJ Headaches are one of the most common symptoms of a TMJ disorder (temporomandibular joint). Tension headaches are the most common type of headache caused by TMJ disorder, but some TMJ headaches can mask themselves as sinus headaches or build into migraine headaches.
There are a few TMJ-related causes for tension headaches. Constant contraction of muscle fibers within a muscle, create tension, pressure or a tight feeling in the face and head. It is often described as a feeling of wearing a hat two sizes too small, with pain in a ring around or focused on just one side the head. Sometimes, constant tight muscle fibers prevent or reduce blood flow to that area and the body sends more blood resulting in an increase in general blood pressure to the muscles and head causing vascular headaches. Clenching and grinding the teeth, which are TMJ symptoms, overwork the muscles of the head and neck and create tension and pain that can be felt in the mornings, and throughout the day. Sometimes, TMJ headaches are so severe that they are completely debilitating, causing an over stimulation of the trigeminal complex that triggers a migraine.
Other times, TMJ headaches are more moderate and such a normal part of daily life that you don’t even realize there is a problem until they are gone! The feeling of relief from being pain free can be compared to the feeling you get when you walk into a room that is usually very messy, but somebody has surprised you by cleaning it up. Your body has become so accustomed to dealing with the discomfort that you don’t even notice it’s effect on you until that discomfort is gone!
The pain from muscle headaches can be blocked with medications, or treated with ongoing physical therapy and massage, but the cause of the disease and damage from the bad bite, or malocclusion, will persist. Side effects with medications, complications from brain surgery, and limited results with muscle or psychological therapy do not correct the source of the problem. Neuromuscular dentistry makes the muscles are happy by ensuring that the jaw is in an optimal position that relaxes the musculature. Your body was designed to have happy muscles which comes from a proper physiologic jaw position supported by healthy and beautiful teeth.
By putting the temporomandibular joint back into alignment and placing the jaw into its optimal position, neuromuscular dentistry can provide solutions to most headache problems related to TMJ, muscle, nerve and joint disorders.
Is Your Migraine Caused By TMD?
Migraines affect more than 37 million Americans, and can be completely debilitating. A study by the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine found that headaches related to TMJ disorder (TMJD) are often misdiagnosed as tension headaches. Eighty-two of percent of female cases and 17 percent of males cases that were included in this study had symptoms associated with TMJD. Thirty-one percent were reported to have tension associated headaches by the research examiners. Health care providers might inaccurately diagnose TMJ-related pain as a regular stress-induced headache when they could in fact be coming from a much more preventable source. Usually, pain radiating from TMJ/TMD is accompanied by:
- A crackling or grinding sound when you move your jaw.
- Stiffness in the joint, making it difficult to open and close your mouth.
- Facial tenderness and pain.
At the same time, it’s unlikely that headaches originating from TMJD would cause symptoms that severe headache and migraines share: nausea, sensitivity to light or sound and fatigue, for instance. A TMJ headache can, however, trigger a migraine for those who are susceptible to them – another reason why addressing TMJ pain is so vital to your overall health.
As a migraine sufferer, you have many options for treatment. Unfortunately, many current migraine therapies, such as botox treatment, chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy or massage, and medications, can provide temporary relief but do not resolve the underlying condition(s) causing the overstimulation.
PROS of Dental Migraine Therapy:
- Gentle, customized, and comfortable treatment for patient
- Non-invasive, avoids medication
- Early detection treatment to eliminate worsening symptoms
- Gets to the root of the problem, instead of masking with chronic symptom management (botox, chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy, medications, massage)
- Lower lifetime costs, when compared to chronic symptom management
CONS of Dental Migraine Therapy:
- Patients should be screened by general physicians and neurologists to rule out neuropathy and more serious conditions such as cancer before trying dental migraine therapy
- Most dental benefit plans do not assist with treatment for these painful conditions
- Some patients require multiple visits over the course of several months to complete treatment
- Sometimes the impact of the discomfort does not yet warrant the commitment of time and money required for treatment
How will I know if dental migraine therapy will work for me?
Dr. Clark is highly trained to use certain classification criteria to diagnose whether your migraine headache is due to TMJD. He will evaluate you to determine:
- Recurrent pain in one or more regions of the head and/or face
- High EMG readings of the muscles in the head and neck in a normal resting and biting position, especially the temporalis
- Wear on the teeth indicating grinding
- Improper development of the upper and lower arch such as a high vaulted palate or a deep overbite
- Pain during chewing, clenching, or when the mouth is kept open for a period of time
- Reduced range or irregular jaw opening
- Noise from one or both TMJs during jaw movements
- Tenderness of the joint capsule(s) of one or both TMJs
- Pain above or below the eyes in the without any radiographic evidence of chronic sinus infection
How will a neuromuscular dentist treat TMJ migraines?
A TMJ dentist like Dr. Clark will work with you to diagnose the underlying cause of your headaches or migraines and can determine if overactive musculature or a TMJ disorder is the cause. If that is the issue, the dentist will design a treatment plan that is specifically suited to you. Dr. Clark and his team will help you learn more about TMD, how to manage the condition and how to reduce the effects on you and your life.
Treatment will involve realigning the bite by measuring the jaw in its most relaxed position and returning the jaw back into its optimal natural position. In most cases, this repositioning can be accomplished without surgery. Treatment of underlying causes of TMD creates a calming of the trigeminal system and in time, it typically resolves many associated pathologies leading to migraine headaches.
If you are experiencing unexplained migraine headaches due to possible TMD, make an appointment with our office and let’s explore the best treatment options for you. By better understanding where your pain is coming from and getting the necessary treatment, you can say goodbye to migraine headaches.