Can TMJ cause headaches? Millions of people experience a telltale pain that radiates from the head and neck. This is usually preceded by stiffness in the jaw. In most cases, the pain arising from Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) is mistaken for a normal headache because of the similarity of the symptoms. Consequently, this type of headache is perhaps the most misdiagnosed and least understood.
Even then, there are some differences that distinguish TMJ headaches from tension headaches. By being able to accurately identify the kind of headache you are experiencing, you can be sure to find the appropriate relief before the sensation gets out of control.
What is a TMJ headache?
TMJ headache or Temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ) headache is defined as head pain resulting from the pain that is first caused by tensing up of the jaw muscles then spreading to the TMJ muscles along the side of your cheeks and then reaching to the top of your head, ultimately causing a TMJ headache. Sometimes it can be hard to find the difference between a TMJ headache and a normal headache.
Connection Between TMJ and Headaches
TMJ is directly connected to your head, and it secures your jaw to your head. Muscles associated with TMJ are located in different parts of your face like cheeks, jaws, and head. If any of the muscles are tensed, TMJ disorder gets triggered, causing a painful headache. Some of the common TMJ headache causes are misalignment of the jaw, uneven bite, hormonal imbalance, and mental stress.
You can differentiate other headaches from a TMJ headache if you pay close attention. We will throw some light on identifying a TMJ headache and conventional TMJ headache treatment methods in upcoming sections.
Difference Between TMJ Headache & Other Headaches
Following is the list of symptoms of TMJ headache. These symptoms are usually not experienced when your headache is due to other reasons.
- Clicking & Popping Sound From Mouth
- Difficulty & Pain While Chewing
- Pain in Ears & Other Parts of the Face
- Ringing Sound in Ears & Hearing Loss
- Difficulty in Jaw Movements
- Pain in TMJ
- Abnormality in Bite
- Jaw Movements Triggering Headaches
- Teeth Clenching
TMJ Headache Location
Other headaches affect the head area only. TMJ headache cause aches in your cheeks, ears, jaw, and other parts of your face, along with the top of your head. The TMJ headache may cause severe pain and discomfort in your neck and shoulders as well.
TMJ Headache Treatment
You should consult your dentist at the first doubt of TMJ disorder. They will be able to diagnose the issue. There are various methods of TMJ headache treatment described below:
Doctors might prescribe you some strong medication depending upon your condition. They can also advise you to wear a bite guard (mouthguard). Clenching and grinding of teeth is a common phenomenon associated with TMJ headaches. A bite guard will protect your teeth from the damaging effects of clenching.
But the medications and bite guards are not the permanent treatment of TMJ disorder. The condition can reverse if you are not careful and don’t take the necessary precautions.
TMJ Lifestyle & TMJ Diet
Apart from the medical treatments, you can achieve TMJ headache relief by making certain lifestyle changes. Try to reduce the amount of stress you face. You can try breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation to calm your nerves down.
If you are going through TMJ disorder, your jaw movements should be slow and tender. Avoid extreme jaw movements like yawning or chewing gum.
Your food intake also plays an important role. Your dentist may prescribe you a TMJ diet sans hard, sticky, and chewy foods. So, avoid foods like apples, carrots, and popcorn. Instead, opt for a nutritious diet of soft and mushy foods like whole-wheat pasta, fish, mashed potato, scrambled eggs, etc.
If lifestyle changes and medications can’t cure the TMJ headache, orthodontic surgery is the option. These surgeries permanently alter the shape of your bite. However, orthodontic surgeries can also not be a guaranteed permanent TMJ headache treatment.
An experienced and qualified orthodontist can prescribe and perform these surgeries. You should be extremely cautious regarding your choice of an orthodontist if you are thinking of undergoing surgery.
TMJ disorder can cause TMJ headaches which when not treated in good time can be a threat to your overall well-being. Thus, it is important to ensure that the right diagnosis is made so that the right treatment can be administered for TMJ headache relief.
If you face any TMJ headache symptoms, contact Joshua Hong DDS to get diagnosed and treated by our expert team.