11 Jun Headaches
What’s the connection? TMJ and Headaches.
When you have a headache, you might not think your jaw could be the cause, but the TMJ or temporomandibular joint could be the culprit. The TMJ is the hinge connecting your jaw to your skull allowing you to do things like talk, laugh, chew and moving your jaw up and down and side to side. Due to the hinge and sliding motions, this joint is a bit more complicated than other joints in the body and can cause a variety of symptoms, including headaches. These headaches are typically called TMD or Temporal Mandibular Disorder.
What causes a TMJ headache?
Statistically, one in six adults and one in six children who visited the dentist last year experienced chronic facial pain in the form of a headache. Pain in the jaw muscles and temporal mandibular joints, as well as headaches were reported as frequently as that in the teeth and surrounding tissues in patients visiting a general dentist. TMD can produce or aggravate primary headaches such as a tension type headache, chronic daily headache and migraines.
There are multiple studies showing an established relationship between nighttime airway disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and TMD symptoms, like headaches. In fact, the studies showed that if you have two or more symptoms of OSA you have a 73% greater incidence of first-onset TMD. Thus, TMD is really a symptom of the bigger problem which is improper breathing at night. Sleep disordered breathing causes the muscles that close the jaw to contract in an effort by the body to open the airway. This leads to pain in the facial muscles over time and eventually muscle tension type headaches and migraines.
There are many different kinds of headaches, but TMJ headaches typically occur with other symptoms. These can include:
- Ear and /or eye pain
- Jaw or facial pain
- A “clicking” or popping noise in the jaw
- Limited opening of the jaw
- Changes in your bite (that is, the way your top and bottom teeth fit together)
- Sinus pain
- Fatigue or tiredness
TMJ headaches often occur in one or more regions of the head, typically in the back of the head or temple areas. Approximately 16% to 17% of the population suffers from migraine headaches, which often have a debilitating effect on sufferers’ daily lives. What many people suffering from chronic headaches or migraines do not know is that their head pain could possibly be caused by the TMD. Oftentimes patients never consider TMJ as a possible cause, leading to frequent misdiagnoses. The typical TMD patient sees 2-4 other doctors before getting a proper Diagnosis.