How TMJ Can Trigger a Headache

TMJ (TMD) is commonly associated with the diagnosis of three different types of headaches, including:

  • Tension headaches
  • Migraines
  • Sinus headaches

Tension headaches typically feel like a tight band of pain around the head. This is the most common type of headache, accounting for 80% or more of all headaches. They occur because of the way that the muscles in the jaw partner with those in the head. Jaw muscles are some of the strongest in the head and neck and when they experience dysfunction they can transfer that dysfunction or soreness on to the surrounding muscles. This includes muscles in the head and neck, leading to both headache and neck pain.

Migraines are a bit mysterious, as is their connection to TMJ (TMD). However, we do know that there is a correlation between TMJ (TMD) and migraines. This correlation is likely a causal link because of the association of the trigeminal nerve with migraines. Migraines can be triggered by excessive activity in the trigeminal nerve. This nerve carries messages to and from the jaw muscles, so it is possible that excessive activity of the jaw muscles triggers overstimulation of the trigeminal nerve, therefore, leading to a migraine.

Another proven connection between the jaw muscles and migraines is that some branches of the trigeminal nerve weave under and around the jaw muscles. Excess muscle activity can put pressure on these nerve branches, potentially leading to migraines. Surgical trimming of these muscles and/or the use of BOTOX ® injections to relax the muscles can reduce or eliminate migraines temporarily. So TMJ (TMD) treatment known as bite therapy can relax your jaw muscles, thereby helping to reduce your migraines.

A true sinus headache is caused by inflammation, swelling, and blockage of the sinus, air chambers in the skull, that are found around the eyes and nose. However, most sinus headaches are misdiagnosed and are actually migraines or tension headaches. They may even be toothaches. Sometimes, chronic sinus infections are linked to tooth infections.

headaches are making this man's job tougher

Is TMJ Causing Your Headaches?

Because they can be related to many conditions, it can be hard to determine whether your headaches are related to TMJ (TMD). Ask yourself the following four questions to determine if TMJ (TMD) might be the possible cause of your headaches:

  1. Am I responding to headache treatment as I should? If you have been diagnosed with a headache and are receiving treatment that isn’t responding, the odds are good that your headache is being caused by something else, possibly TMJ (TMD)
  2. Do I have other TMJ symptoms? Typically, TMJ (TMD) symptoms come together, so if you have headaches, you may have other symptoms, such as:
    • Jaw pain
    • Jaw popping or clicking
    • Restricted jaw motion or locked jaw
    • Ear symptoms like ringing in the ears, ear pain, or vertigo
    • Neck pain
    • Face pain
  3. Do my headaches flare up after jaw activity? If they tend to come after chewing gum, eating a large meal, yawning, talking for long periods, or other kinds of jaw activity, then it is likely TMJ (TMD) plays a role
  4. Have I considered other common causes? Make sure that you have considered and eliminated other common causes such as dehydration, alcohol consumption, food allergies, and overexertion. Note that in some cases overexertion and stress are triggers for TMJ (TMD)

If you think TMJ (TMD) might be causing your headaches, gneuromuscular dentist, Dr. Kendall can perform a comprehensive examination of your jaw and determine whether you have characteristics of TMJ (TMD), including but not limited to, tense muscles, displaced discs in the temporomandibular joint, or other potential elements of this disorder.

If you are ready to finally be rid of your headaches in Anchorage, please call (907) 349-0022 or contact us today for an appointment at Excellence In Dentistry.