What Is A TMJ Headache?

There are more than three hundred types of headaches, including those caused by TMJ dysfunction. Besides making it difficult to chew, yawn, and talk, you can experience a mild to severe headache that can be challenging to diagnose and treat. Find out more about what is a TMJ headache below.

If you have jaw pain, headaches, or other TMJ symptoms, schedule an appointment at Trident Dental for a comprehensive TMJ evaluation.

What Is the Temporomandibular Joint?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which connects your lower jaw to your skull, is one of the most used joints in your body. Some research indicates that the TMJ moves 2,000-3,000 times daily when you eat, speak, drink, swallow, and breathe. The TMJ’s bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons must work harmoniously to accomplish these complex movements. When a problem occurs within the TMJ, it affects nerves in the face, jaw, and neck to create various symptoms.

What is a TMJ Headache?

A TMJ headache is a pain in your face, temple, or cheek caused by TMJ dysfunction. There are several possible causes of TMJ dysfunction that lead to headaches, including:

  • Upper and lower teeth not fitting together properly.

  • Grinding your teeth excessively, especially while sleeping.

  • Facial trauma that dislocates or damages the TMJ.

  • Excessively chewing gum, biting your nails, chewing ice, or eating hard foods.

  • Arthritis or other chronic diseases that cause inflammation and damage to TMJ cartilage.

  • Displacement of the TMJ’s disc.

Other Symptoms of TMJ 

Besides causing a headache, TMJ dysfunction also leads to various symptoms, such as:

  • Muscle pain. The masseter muscle is a powerful and large chewing muscle that typically gets inflamed and painful during TMJ dysfunction. Other head, neck, shoulder, and upper back muscles can also develop tightness and pain.

  • Jaw stiffness. To function properly, your TMJ needs a wide range of motion. When the muscles that allow this become inflamed or tight, you can lose this ability. In the extreme, your jaw can lock open or closed.

  • Jaw pain. TMJ headaches are usually accompanied by jaw pain that can radiate to the ear or neck.

  • Tinnitus. In addition to earaches, TMJ dysfunction can also cause ringing in the ears. This is thought to occur because the chewing muscles insert near the middle ear, the ligaments of the TMJ attach to a hearing bone in the middle ear, or nerve connections between the TMJ and part of the brain that are involved in interpreting sound. 

  • Joint noises. TMJ dysfunction can cause various noises, such as clicking, popping, or grating when you open or close your mouth. These noises are usually caused by movement of the joint’s disc. However, some people have joint noises without pain or other symptoms of TMJ dysfunction. 

Treatments for TMJ Headaches

Eliminating TMJ headaches requires treating the cause of TMJ dysfunction. The severity of the symptoms usually determines treatment. Mild symptoms may be alleviated by at-home treatments such as:

  • Applying ice or moist heat to the joint.

  • Eating a softer diet.

  • Taking medications such as Ibuprofen to minimize inflammation.

  • Gentle stretching exercises.

Professional dental treatment for TMJ headaches can include:

  • Custom-made mouthguard.

  • Occlusal (bite) adjustment.

  • Replacing defective fillings and crowns.

  • Braces.

Schedule Appointment

Contact us at Trident Dental to learn how we can help you with TMJ problems with one or more of our treatments, such as a night guard, braces, or restorative dental procedures.

Schedule Appointment

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