The Link Between TMJ and Headaches: What You Need to Know

TMJ

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder is one of the top causes of chronic pain. TMJ disorders can make it difficult to eat and talk and can be the cause of headaches. Many TMJ disorder symptoms mimic other disorders, so it can be easy to mistake a TMJ for a headache. Treating TMJ like you would a headache can offer temporary relief, but since the root of the issue isn’t being addressed, you’ll likely experience more headaches. 

TMJD Symptoms

TMJ disorders can cause dull to significant pain in the jaw joint. Some of the causes can include: 

  • Injury or Trauma in the joint
  • Overuse
  • Misalignment in the jaw due to bad bite
  • Wear and tear causing arthritis
  • Muscle knots
  • Pressure from grinding teeth

These causes create inflammation in the joint, making it difficult to eat or chew due to pain and limited movement. 

TMJ and Headaches

Jaw pain caused by TMJ can be mistaken as a tension headache or migraine. In a recent study, it was found that 31% of headache sufferers had TMJ. Because the joint shares a direct connection with your head muscles, they can become tense, damaged, or knotted, creating headaches. 

Bite malocclusion, or bad bite, can also lead to TMJ-related headaches. Misaligned teeth causing a bad bite cause more jaw stress, making the joints misaligned. Extra stress and pressure in your jaw can put tension on the muscles, causing a headache. 

The Difference Between TMJ and Headaches

There are a few ways to differentiate between a headache and TMJ pain. TMJ pain mistaken as a migraine won’t have typical migraine symptoms like sensitivity to light and sound or nausea. Unique TMJ symptoms include: 

  • Difficulty or pain while chewing
  • Popping or clicking when opening your mouth
  • Earaches
  • Locked jaw
  • Tenderness in your temporomandibular joint

If you’re experiencing locked jaw or consistent chronic pain, it’s time to seek TMJ treatment options to improve your quality of life. 

TMJ Treatment Options

Pittsburgh Dentist Dr. Alexandra S. George offers a few treatment options for TMJD pain. Depending on the cause and severity of your symptoms, one or more of the following options may be beneficial for you: 

  • Disclusion Time Reduction (DTR)
  • Orthotic appliance
  • Crowns
  • Braces

Disclusion Time Reduction

DTR Therapy is a specialized and innovative dental treatment that can help to reduce oral pain and discomfort. We recommend DTR for TMJ disorders because it helps to relieve headaches, facial and jaw pain, locked jaw, and more. Dr. Alexandra George is one of the few doctors in the world who offers this specialized treatment. 

Using the latest technology, DTR identifies where the friction and stress are occurring in the muscle, causing pain. We can use this information to adjust your bite without using appliances, medication, or invasive procedures like injections or surgery. In 1-3 appointments, DTR can help relieve pain and discomfort. 

Orthotic Appliance

An orthotic appliance is a semi-permanent solution for your jaw discomfort. The appliance is designed to move the jaw into alignment to reduce TMJD symptoms and is removable but is to be worn 24 hours a day. 

Crowns

Crowns are part of many treatment plans, but they can help reduce TMJ disorder pain by restoring your teeth to a pain-free position. If you grind your teeth or have lost tooth structure, crowns may help relieve your pain while restoring your smile. 

Braces

Braces aren’t a traditional solution for TMJ disorders, but our braces treatment plan aims to realign the teeth and remodel your jaw to a permanent and more comfortable position. 

Book Your Consultation Today

We offer a variety of approaches to finding a treatment plan that works best for you and your TMJ disorder pain. Your jaw is an integral part of your daily life, and we don’t always realize how much we use it until it’s in consistent pain. When your TMJ becomes disruptive to your ability to sleep, eat, speak, and function, you deserve relief. Learn more about our TMJD treatments and book your consultation today.

Dr. Alexandra S. George

Medically reviewed by Dr. Alexandra S. George - D.D.S., L.Vl.I.F. on November 21st, 2023