The temporomandibular joints, or TMJs, are the ones that connect your lower jaw to the rest of your skull. This joint is one of the more complex ones in the human body because it allows us to talk, chew, and move our jaw in any number of ways. Just like with other joints, however, it can sometimes not work as it should and cause painful symptoms, including TMJ headaches.
What is a TMD?
A TMD is a temporomandibular disorder. It’s a disorder involving the TMJ itself or the muscles supporting it. These disorders can be caused by poor habits like grinding and clenching your teeth but also injuries like those sustained in a car accident. If your bite is uneven and not corrected or if you have other physical ailments like arthritis, the joint may not work as it’s designed to and lead to TMJ headaches and other symptoms. Some disorders and symptoms have no known cause.
Symptoms of TMJ Headaches
To properly treat recurring and persistent headaches, you first have to know the underlying cause. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish TMJ headaches from those caused by other factors. If you also experience any of these symptoms, you may need to speak with your dentist about a possible TMD.
- Popping and clicking when opening your mouth
- Restricted movement of your jaw
- Painful or difficult chewing
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Typical headache treatments aren’t working
While this doesn’t work for everyone and should not be used to diagnose or rule out TMJ headaches, you can also try the pencil test. By gently holding a pencil between your teeth, you are changing the position of your jaw. If doing this changes your headache in any way then the temporomandibular joint or muscles could be to blame.
The type of treatment recommended for TMJ headaches depends mostly on the TMD that’s causing them.
- Clenching and grinding your teeth can be a problem and using a mouthguard at night while treating the underlying stress may help.
- If the jaw is misaligned due to a bite pattern then the best treatment may be to straighten your teeth.
- Rarely, oral surgery is required to repair the TMJ if it’s been damaged by an injury or progressive disease like arthritis.
- Self-care like physical therapy exercises and avoiding things like chewing gum may also help alleviate symptoms.
If you are concerned that your migraines may be TMJ headaches, call Smile Time Dental at (281) 245-0711 to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists. They can go over your medical history and symptoms and may also use diagnostic imaging to help determine if a TMD is the cause.