Is TMJ Causing Your Headaches?

You can’t definitively diagnose whether you have TMJ-related headaches, but if you have other symptoms related to TMJ, you should suspect that TMJ is at least partly to blame for your headaches. Common symptoms associated with TMJ are jaw pain, neck pain, and back pain.

If you have these symptoms and headaches, TMJ may be the problem. Here are some signs that TMJ may be causing your persistent headaches.

Headaches Occur after Jaw Activity

One of the most important clues linking headaches with TMJ is that intense jaw activity sets off your headaches. This can include chewing tough foods, opening your mouth wide, talking for long periods of time, and other activities that put your jaw muscles to the test.

This is perhaps ironic because more and more research says TMJ is associated mostly with migraines, not tension-type headaches. This is not to say that only migraines are linked to TMJ, but it seems that TMJ tends to worsen migraines more than it worsens other types of headaches.

You Clench Your Teeth Before, During, or After Headaches

One kind of jaw activity that’s worth singling out is teeth clenching or bruxism. Bruxism is a parafunction–something you’re doing with your jaw that you’re not supposed to do–often associated with TMJ and Wilmington TMJ-related headaches. Bruxism can occur during the day or night, so it may be responsible for those morning headaches you get (though that could also be sleep apnea).

You Also Have Jaw Pain, Clicking, or Restricted Movement

Temporomandibular joint disorders often manifest in the jaw first or at the same time as they cause symptoms elsewhere. If you experience jaw pain, that’s a sign you have TMJ that may be causing your headaches. Jaw sounds like clicking or popping occur because the cushioning disk in the temporomandibular joint is out of place, but can slip back into place–that causes the sound. Restricted jaw movement occurs when the disk won’t slip back in place but rather interferes with the motion of your jaw.

You Experience Other Wilmington TMJ Symptoms

Headaches are a common TMJ symptom, but it’s not the only one outside the jaw. Check for other related symptoms, such as:

  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears), ear stuffiness, or ear pain
  • Vertigo or dizzy spells
  • Tooth damage or wear
  • Neck, shoulder, or upper back pain
  • Tingling or numbness in the fingers

If you experience one or more of these symptoms in addition to the jaw symptoms listed above, then it’s likely that TMJ is contributing to your headaches.

The “Pencil Test”

Here’s a quick test you can perform at home. It’s not foolproof, but it can give you a hint that TMJ might be contributing to your headaches.

Next time you have a headache, gently hold a pencil between your teeth. If it changes the pain you’re feeling–either lessening it or increasing it–then it’s likely that TMJ is contributing to your headaches.

Types of Headaches Caused By TMJ

As well as the various symptoms TMJ can cause, there are different types of TMJ-related headaches that you can have. Here are some TMJ headaches in Wilmington that you may experience:

TMJ and Tension Headaches

Dr. Kuzma can help you find relief from headachesThe most common type of headache and most commonly associated with TMJ. In Wilmington, NC, tension headaches, your muscles pull on your head, constricting it. TMJ can cause this type because muscle tension in your jaw muscles is passed on to muscles in the head, which partner with those in the jaw.

We can demonstrate the excessive force in your bite and how that translates into tension in your jaw muscles. The T-Scan digital bite sensor records how much force each tooth is experiencing when you bite down. We can show you how imbalanced these forces are and where your teeth are subjected to the most force. Then we can use the electromyograph in the K-7 to measure how much tension is being carried in your jaw muscles, tension that can translate into tension headaches.

This type of headache is generally mild or moderate in intensity, but it can recur frequently, becoming very disruptive.

TMJ and Migraine Headaches

Because we’re not clear about what causes migraines, we’re still not entirely clear about the link between TMJ and migraines in Wilmington. One explanation is that TMJ causes a tension headache, which can serve as a migraine trigger. Another explanation is that TMJ can lead to trigeminal nerve irritation, where many migraines start.

However, we know that people with TMJ often experience migraines and that migraine frequency and intensity typically diminish after TMJ treatment. In rare cases, TMJ treatment may completely eliminate TMJ-related migraines in Wilmington.

TMJ and Referred Pain Headaches

Have you ever wondered why left arm pain is a common symptom of a heart attack? It’s not because a heart attack actually makes your arm hurt; it’s because your brain thinks heart pain is coming from the arm. This is known as referred pain, and it can also work when your brain thinks jaw pain is a headache. It sounds crazy, but this is one explanation for ice cream headaches—the pain is in the upper part of your mouth, but your brain thinks it’s a headache.

Referred pain headaches are alleviated by treating and eliminating jaw pain.

Receive Effective Headache Treatment in Wilmington

Headaches can be painful and debilitating to your overall wellness and everyday life. You don’t have to continue to suffer from TMJ-related migraines in Wilmington, NC. If you think TMJ might be responsible for your headaches in Wilmington, NC, please call (910) 392-6060 or email Kuzma Advanced Dentistry. Our experienced TMJ dentists are here to ease your Wilmington TMJ symptoms, including chronic headaches!