TMJ Headaches

TMJ Headache Treatment

Roughly half of Americans suffer from pain caused by the temporomandibular joints. Commonly referred to as TMJ, TMJ dysfunction causes tight facial muscles and clenching of the teeth, which often results in a headache at the same time. TMJ-related headaches tend to show up as pain in the temples. 

For many people, the symptoms become chronic. 

When we talk about the temporomandibular joints, we are talking about two joins connecting the jawbone to the skull. They are connected to the mandible, or the jawbone.  The nerves and muscles of the head and neck and are connected to the nerves and muscles of the face. When you have TMJ inflammation, it irritates the muscles that are connected AND the nerves that go through it. Sometimes it seems as though TMJ problems have come on suddenly, due to an injury or other trauma. But the underlying problem was there all along, waiting to be triggered. 

What is TMJ?

People think of pain from TMJ problems as being localized in the TMJ joint. But as we know, no joint in the body works in isolation. Everything is connected! The TMJ works in relation to the neck, especially the upper parts of the neck. Any time you move your mouth, 50% of the force of the movement comes from your upper neck, the C1, and C2. 

You may know that the force of clenching and grinding your teeth may be enough to break them. When you clench and grind your teeth, you’re putting extra pressure on your neck, double or triple pressure even. This will lead to neck problems and remember that everything is connected! 

How can you get relief from your TMJ headache pain? First, it must be diagnosed correctly! You’re clenching and grinding your teeth worse when you’re stressed, but that’s not the CAUSE of the clenching and grinding in the first place. 

Most often, your upper and lower jaws are not aligned correctly. Even a slight misalignment can cause clenching and grinding of the teeth as your body tries to correct the alignment. Correcting the alignment in childhood could fix it, if its caught early enough. It almost never is. In adults, that misalignment will, over time, spread damage to the neck, shoulder blades, and other areas, if it hasn’t already.   

After diagnosis, we have to treat the neck to restore proper function in those C1 and C2 vertebrae and the muscles around them. Then we have to do specific craniomandibular therapy to help relax the muscles of the neck and jaw, so they’ll fall into their natural, aligned position. 

In some cases, a bite plate can help realign the bite. A bite plate is made to correct the asymmetry in your jaw alignment. Mouth guards, on the other hand, can cause people to clench and grind even harder. 

Depending on the severity of the problem, orthodontics may be needed, or braces. Surgery is incredibly rare as a solution. 

If you can find a good neuromuscular dentist, which is an incredibly rare specialty, they can treat the muscle problems and help with TMJ pain. Before orthodontics and braces became a cosmetic treatment, they were created to help correct bites and misalignments of the jaw. Unfortunately, most childhood orthodontics shrink the mouth and can create even greater stress on the TMJ, making the possibility of a problem greater over time. 

But fixing the neck is key to correcting the TMJ problem. A bad neck will continue to put additional stress on the joint and bring the problem back.  

Make an Appointment Today

You don’t have to live with the pain of TMJ and its headaches. Contact us today to learn how we can help relieve your pain and restore healthy function to your neck and jaw.