You’re driving home from work exhausted and ready for dinner. First thing you feel when unlocking your door is pain traveling along your back and neck and into your head. Maybe this is the second time this week or the fourth, the question is, why does this keep happening to you? The answer could be in your jaw.
The temporomandibular joint is like a hinge that connects your jaw to the rest of your head. When you take a bite of food, spit, talk, or yawn, this joint is activated, calling upon other major muscle groups located in the back, shoulders, and head to help you complete this action. When this joint malfunctions, known as TMD or TMJ, it can cause a slew of symptoms that are often misinterpreted by both doctors and patients.
One of these symptoms is—you guessed it—headaches.
How Does TMJ Cause Headaches?
Even though it’s difficult to determine, there is usually a root cause for every headache. Because the temporomandibular joint is connected to so many surrounding structures, pain or stimulation from this area can travel to different parts of the head. Some of the most important connected structures are the chewing muscles. These are the largest muscles in the head, running from the bottom of the jaw to the temples. They can carry a lot of tension. Tension headaches are one of the most common forms of TMJ headaches. These tend to localize in the forehead area, producing the sensation of a rubber band squeezing the head.
Are Your Headaches Caused by TMJ?
A recent study conducted at the University of Buffalo School of Dental Medicine found that TMJ headaches are widely misdiagnosed, with a staggering 82 percent of female cases having symptoms of TMJ. While the study is disheartening, it’s also illuminating. If you’d like to better understand the root cause of your headaches, it’s helpful to look for other symptoms.
One of the most common symptoms of TMJ is a popping or clicking noise while eating. However, there are several other symptoms such as, muscle soreness in the jaw, bruxism or teeth grinding in your sleep, and even tingling in the fingers.
What to Do
The best method for dealing with headaches associated with TMJ is to treat the problem at its source. First you can prevent any more damage to your jaw by avoiding chewing gum, and performing jaw exercises whenever possible. It might also be helpful to gently massage your jaw when you wake up and before you go to bed. Another option, however, is scheduling an appointment with a TMJ dentist.
TMJ treatment provided by a neuromuscular dentist can begin to restore the balance of your jaw system. By reducing the tension in your jaw dramatically, you reduce the impact it has on surrounding muscle structures. Dental professionals can provide your with custom fitted mouthwear to help your jaw relax during sleep, which can help you begin the healing process.
If you’ve been having too many headaches lately, and they’re cutting into your productivity and quality of life, enough is enough. Please call (229) 242-5511 or email for an appointment with a neuromuscular dentist in Valdosta, GA at Dr. Nelson Clements.