woman holding her head in painIf you suffer from chronic headaches or even the occasional migraine, you probably have tried countless remedies to relieve the pain that could be ruining your life. Whether you have daily headaches or just a few a year, it’s important to realize that, for some of you, there is a connection between headaches and the alignment of your teeth.

How your teeth align in a resting position has proven to affect overall health and wellbeing. If your upper and lower teeth and jaw are not lining up properly, you may be suffering from painful headaches that you think are migraines. Continue reading to learn more about the causes of headaches as they relate to dentistry.

Neuromuscular Dentistry

Neuromuscular dentistry is a branch of dentistry that focuses on the importance of a balanced bite for quality of life and good health. When reading about neuromuscular dentistry in Wilmington, NC, and surrounding areas, you will often see the term “malocclusion.” Malocclusion is the medical term for a misaligned bite, often referred to as a “cross bite.” Malocclusion may also take the form of an underbite or an overbite. All three types of bite problems come under the umbrella term of “malocclusion.”

Regardless of the specifics of how a jaw is misaligned, headaches (including migraines) may occur if your bite is out of alignment. A Wilmington neuromuscular dentist will know how to diagnose and treat malocclusion so those headaches you suffer become a problem of your past.

Can TMJ Cause Headaches?

You will often see the acronyms TMJ and TMD used synonymously. TMD stands for “temporomandibular joint disorder” (or disorders), while TMJ stands for “temporomandibular joint.” You will hear people say, “My dentist diagnosed me with TMJ,” or you may hear them say, “I need a dentist for my TMD.” Either term is fine. What is important to understand is that jaw pain headaches and even migraine headaches can be caused by a misaligned bite. Yes, TMJ can cause headaches, but a Wilmington, North Carolina TMJ dentist can help.

More About TMJ

Does your jaw click or pop? Do you wake up with a tight jaw? Has someone told you that you grind your teeth while you sleep? Do you wake up several times throughout the night and don’t know why? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might be suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ. Even something as simple as an old filling, a cavity, or a damaged/decayed tooth can lead to problems with the alignment of the jaw.

Symptoms of TMJ can include:

  • Headache
  • Jaw pain
  • Ear ache
  • Neck tightness and/or stiffness
  • Sleep apnea, including gasping for air, waking up short of breath in the night, and numerous periods of breathing stoppage while you sleep
  • Facial soreness
  • Clenched, tight jaw
  • Teeth grinding (mostly at night)
  • Locked jaw
  • Clicking or popping sound in the jaw while eating or yawning
  • Fullness in the ears
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears (known as “tinnitus”)
  • Back pain
  • Numbness/tingling in the fingers

Sleep Apnea and TMJ

The relationship between TMJ and sleep apnea has been researched for years, and your Wilmington neuromuscular dentist will be able to explain how the two are connected in much more detail at the office. Here are some highlights regarding the connection between sleep apnea and TMJ.

Over 22 million people in the United States experience sleep apnea to some degree. Over 43% of patients with TMJ also experience some type of sleep problem. The two are closely related because when there are problems with the airway (as with sleep apnea), the body’s automatic response to the collapsed airway is to push the jaw forward.

People with sleep apnea often stop breathing hundreds of times during the night. Just imagine what this constant collapsing of the airway does to the jaw. The jaw is constantly moving back and forth to accommodate the airway and keep it unobstructed. The jaw joints (the temporomandibular joints) are overworked and stressed, leading to jaw pain, tightness, clicking, locking, and a whole host of other painful symptoms.

What Can a Dentist do to Treat Headache and Jaw Pain?

As you know, treatment plans are always individualized and differ from patient to patient. Only after a thorough assessment of your jaw, mouth, and teeth will your Wilmington neuromuscular dentist know how to help with your migraines or jaw pain headaches.

TMD/TMJ treatment may include any of the following:

  • Massage
  • TENS Unit (transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation)
  • Oral appliance/bite splint (known commonly as a “mouth guard” or “bite guard”)
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Orthodontics
  • Restorative dentistry

Since TMJ pain can take place in the joint and in the bones, teeth, and nerves in and around the mouth and face, it’s crucial to have an experienced Wilmington neuromuscular dentist evaluate your condition and devise a plan a treatment plan just for you. You don’t have to continue to suffer from jaw pain, headache, and sleep apnea in Wilmington, NC.

Get Jaw Pain Headache Treated in Wilmington, North Carolina

Please call Kuzma Advanced Dentistry at (910) 392-6060 or fill out the online contact form to get a TMJ consultation and evaluation with Dr. Michael J. Kuzma. Whether you’re looking for a general dentist, a cosmetic dentist, or a neuromuscular dentist, Kuzma Advanced Dentistry serving Wilmington and surrounding areas will work hard to free you from the pain of TMJ and headaches that you’ve suffered for far too long.