When suffering from headaches, it’s typical to pin them down to either lack of water, the weather, stress, diet, or inadequate sleep and a visit to your general physician. However, there are also cases where your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) might be the cause, necessitating a visit to your dentist instead.
TMJ is the joint that connects the jaw to the skull. It acts as a sliding hinge, with one joint on each side of the jaw. Due to this sliding motion, TMJ can be a little more complicated than other joints within your body.
TMJ disorders also referred to as temporomandibular disorders (TMD), can cause pain in the jaw. They also create discomfort in the surrounding muscle, which helps with jaw movement. When this happens, several symptoms can arise, which include headaches.
Understanding Exactly How It Happens
Many potential causes of TMJ headaches include jaw injuries, arthritis, genetics, and misaligned teeth. Another common cause is teeth grinding, which often happens at night during sleep. Grinding your teeth can also lead to other problems like loose teeth and jawbone erosion.
The thing is, people don’t often realize that TMJ can cause headaches. Therefore, if you suffer from recurring headaches, you must look closely at other signs of the condition.
First off, think about what type of headaches you get. Three types of headaches that are strongly connected to TMJ include:
- Referred pain
Stiff shoulders usually cause these common headaches, so the neck, face, and head are just referred pain points. However, since your jawbone also has connecting muscles throughout your face and head, the most significant sign is stiffness in the jaw area, which then branches out throughout your head.
Other signs your headache is TMJ-related include:
- Regular medication isn’t working. When aspirin or other painkillers don’t seem to solve the problem long-term, it’s time to visit your dentist.
- Your job could require you to talk for long periods, which leads to muscle fatigue, jaw clenching, and teeth grinding.
- Your diet is composed mainly of hard foods like meat or chips.
- You will have tension or referred pain headaches that radiate on your jaw, neck, and head. Remember, jaw discomfort is the sign to look out for when self-diagnosing a TMJ headache.
- You can also develop limited mouth movement and associated pain. If you’re wondering if you have this issue, there’s a quick test you can do. Place your first three fingers (side-by-side) between your lower and upper teeth. If you can’t do this easily, your headache is TMJ-related.
A more straightforward way to test this is to open your mouth. If you notice a sharp pain in your jawbones that wasn’t there before and immediately causes you to close your mouth when you reach the apex, schedule an appointment with your dentist immediately.
- Your bite could also be noticeably misaligned. Your upper and lower teeth will feel disjointed when at rest.
- There could also be a perpetual ringing in your ears and a clicking noise when moving your jaw.
Visit Your Dentist If You Experience These Signs
Short-term solutions for TMJ-connected headaches won’t work since they don’t target the root of the problem. For best results, visit a dentist in Chattanooga from Shallowford Family Dental! We’ve treated patients as far back as 1940 with dedicated practitioners focused on quality care. Experience our healthy environment by booking your appointment today!