TMJ Headache: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Headaches are one of the most common symptoms people have if they suffer from TMJ. These headaches may cause considerable pain, leading to decreased productivity and a lack of work time. Headaches can be hard to handle, and they can be caused by a variety of different factors. 

If it is a TMJ headache, we can help. But how do you know that the TMJ is the source of your headache? First let us understand what TMJ is.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Syndrome is a condition of the jaw muscles and nerves caused by damage or inflammation of the temporomandibular joint. The temporomandibular joint is the bridge between the jawbone and the skull. Injured or swollen temporomandibular joints lead to pain with chewing, clicking, cracking and popping of the jaw; swelling on the sides of the face; nerve inflammation; headaches, including migraine headaches; tooth grinding (bruxism); eustachian tube dysfunction; and occasionally dislocation of the temporomandibular joint. Temporomandibular joint disorder is another name for temporomandibular joint syndrome

What causes TMJ and can it happen to anyone?

Health practitioners do not fully understand the causes of TMJ disorders. Multiple factors contribute to the tightness and dysfunction of the muscles that characterize this condition. It is not clear whether any of these factors contribute directly to TMJ syndrome, or whether they are the consequence of the condition. Causes can include:

  • Misalignment (malocclusion) or damage to the teeth or jaws;
  • Grinding of teeth (bruxism),
  • Weak postures,
  • Stress or agony,
  • Arthritis and other musculoskeletal inflammatory conditions,
  • Orthodontic braces,
  • Excessive gum chewing.

What are its symptoms? 

The key symptom of TMD is pain in the jaw joint. This joint is located just in front of the ear, and TMJ pain can include the face, eye, forehead, ear, or neck. Signs and symptoms of temporomandibular joint dysfunction include:

Headaches observed immediately after jaw activities

One of the most important signs relating headaches to TMJ is the fact that severe jaw movement triggers headaches. This could involve chewing hard foods, opening your mouth wide, talking for a long time, and other movement and activities that bring your jaw muscles to the test.

This is not to suggest that only migraines are related to TMJ, but it seems that TMJ appears to exacerbate migraines than other forms of headaches.

Clenching the teeth before, during, or after headaches

One kind of jaw operation worth singling out is teeth grinding or bruxism. Bruxism is a parafunction – something you're doing with your jaw that you're not supposed to do – also associated with TMJ and TMJ-related headaches. Bruxism may occur during the day or night, so it may be responsible for your morning headaches.

You also have Jaw Pain, Click or Limited Movement

If you have jaw pain and headache that follows, this is an indication that you have a TMJ that can worsen your headaches. Jaw sounds like clicking or popping happen because the cushioning disc in the temporomandibular joint is out of place, but may move back into place – which creates the echo. Restricted movement of the jaw occurs when the disc does not fall back into position, but rather interferes with the motion of the jaw.

Other Symptoms include

  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears), swelling of the ear, or pain in the ear
  • Dizzy spells or vertigo
  • Damaged tooth or wear
  • Color, elbow, or upper back pain
  • Tingling or numbness in your fingertips

How do you treat TMJ?

At Perfect Smiles Dental, depending on the cause of your TMJ and the severity of your symptoms, your TMJ treatment is always customized.

To relax your muscles and relieve symptoms, lifestyle changes may be enough. We can teach you how to stretch and massage your muscles, for instance, and help you identify movements or activities that make the problem worse, such as chewing gum.

We recognize that reducing daily stress is easier said than done, but for our patients who are so stressed that they constantly clench their teeth, it's an important part of treatment.

Your TMJ may need an oral appliance to be treated. As you sleep, you will wear the device like a mouth guard. If that's the cause of your TMJ pain, it prevents teeth grinding, but oral appliances are also used to reposition a misaligned jaw gently.

You may need to consider oral surgery to remove excess joint fluid or to repair a damaged or degenerated joint if all conservative treatments fail.

You do not need to continue to suffer from TMJ migraine or pain in the jaw or face. Call Perfect Smiles Dental on (434) 799-0120) today or book an online appointment so that we can find the care you need to relieve your pain.