Headaches? It Could Be TMJ

Headaches can have many triggers, from monthly hormone cycles to certain foods or even the weather. However, your dentist might be who you need to talk to if your headaches are chronic, especially if you also have jaw, neck, and shoulder pain. It could be temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain, caused by the hinge of your jaw being misaligned.

The Smile Agency Orthodontics & Smile Design has two locations spanning Pasadena and West Covina, California. Karen Guinn, DDS, and her team can provide a range of treatment options to relieve your TMJ pain.

TMJ basics

Your TMJ is the hinge at the back point of your jaw. It’s covered in cartilage. If this shock-absorbing tissue is worn away, or the hinge gets misaligned by even a fraction, your jaw can endure a lot of stress at that joint.

The stressors affecting your jaw can cause pain that radiates to other areas, including headaches. These pains are often written off to other causes, and no one thinks to ask their dentist about chronic head pain. 

Problems with your TMJ are often referred to as TMD, or temporomandibular joint disorder. If you think your symptoms match up with TMD, you might want to discuss your pain with a dentist who specializes in TMJ issues.

TMD symptoms

Common symptoms of TMD include general jaw pain that can present on one or both sides of your head. The pain can be worse when you are chewing or talking. It may also radiate across your face, into your ears, and down into your neck and shoulders. In severe cases, your jaw may feel stiff or even lock in an open or closed position. 

TMJ treatment options

If your headaches are caused by TMD, Dr. Guinn can discuss your treatment options with you. In some cases, wearing a customized night guard at night can help prevent jaw stress like tooth clenching or grinding, and relieve your symptoms by training your jaw to remain in the correct position when at rest.

Ice, heat, and physical exercises can also help with TMJ issues. However, if your problems persist, Dr. Guinn may have other more advanced options for you, such as:

Botox® injections

Injecting this mild paralytic into contracted jaw muscles can help relieve headache pain and prevent you from clenching the muscles triggering the migraines.

TENS treatment

Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) delivers light electrical stimulation to the jaw, helping to relieve pain by as much as 50% according to some studies of TMJ patients with severe cases of TMD.

Want to find out if your headaches are caused by TMD? Call our office most convenient to you, or request an appointment online today to get more information. 

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