Millions of Americans suffer from recurring headaches that seem to defy diagnosis from general practitioners and other medical doctors.
Chronic, migraine-like headaches are often a result of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD). And the solution to these mysterious types of headaches may actually be found in your dentist’s office.
Neuromuscular Dentistry and TMJD
A recent CBS news article details the story of a woman who spent 13 years suffering from what she believed were migraines. These intense headaches were accompanied by other relatively vague symptoms, including difficulty sleeping and general discomfort.
Over a series of visits to various doctors, the woman was alternately diagnosed with migraines, spine misalignment, allergies, and sinus problems. But treatments—which ranged from drugs to surgery to spine adjustments—did not work.
The woman finally visited a cosmetic dentist with experience in the field of neuromuscular dentistry, which focuses on the relationship between your bite and the rest of your body . Her dentist identified TMJD caused by nighttime teeth grinding and clenching.
Headaches and TMJD
TMJD is often misdiagnosed or goes untreated because the headaches and other symptoms it causes—including neck pain, jaw pain and tinnitus—are also shared with other ailments. Dentists who practice neuromuscular dentistry understand that this discomfort may stem from the tiny, sensitive regions where the jaw connects to the skull.
Within these connective regions is the trigeminal nerve, which registers sensation throughout the face. A bite condition, misaligned jaw or poor oral health habit like teeth grinding can stress the connective muscles, bones, tendons and nerves, and send pain shooting through face and body.
Other TMJD Symptoms
Although migraine-like headaches are the most widely reported symptom of TMJD, most people who suffer from this condition also experience additional symptoms that may include:
- Difficulty biting or chewing
- Jaw clicking or popping
- Jaw sticking or locking
- Earaches or ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Neck, shoulder or back pain
- Difficulty finding a comfortable resting position for the jaw
- Frequent numbness or tingling in the hands and fingers
You should visit your dentist if you suffer from persistent headaches or jaw discomfort, or if you are unable to completely open or close your jaw.
There are many effective TMJD treatment options available. The right choice for you depends on a number of individual factors, including the precise source of your discomfort.
Many patients find lasting relief with the use of an orthotic device, which are sometimes referred to as “bite splints” or “night guards.” These comfortable, custom-made appliances are designed to help you maintain an ideal bite as you sleep and prevent unconscious habits like teeth grinding.
Those whose TMJD symptoms are caused by more severe jaw alignment issues or the bite conditions known as malocclusions may benefit from orthodontics or another form of treatment.
Austin, Texas, dentist Dr. Dan Matthews has helped numerous patients find long-term relief from headaches and other painful symptoms of TMJD. If you suffer from recurring headaches that have otherwise not responded to treatment, please contact Dan Matthews, DDS, online or call our office at 512-452-2273 to schedule your free consultation.