Are Headaches a Sign of Tmd?

By: Patricia Woloch

If you haven't heard of TMJ/TMD yet, you may be missing out on an important component of your dental health. TMJ/TMD refers to a group of disorders affecting the temporomandibular joints, or the jaw joints that make jaw movement possible. Also referred to as neuromuscular disorders, these abnormalities can cause all sorts of unpleasant effects, from headaches to head and neck pain to tooth loss. (Learn about other TMJ symptoms.)

Is an unbalanced jaw causing your headaches?
Not only are recurring headaches a sign of a neuromuscular disorder, they are actually the most common sign. Tension headaches, migraines, pulsating or localized headaches... anyone who's ever had them will tell you they are unpleasant and often debilitating. But what may seem like a stress or tension headache may actually be a muscle-contraction headache caused by a dysfunction of the jaw. The muscles, bone and cartilage that work together to let you speak and eat go on operating, day in and day out. It comes as no surprise that somehow, a once balanced and efficient jaw could get off track. These jaw muscles are highly susceptible to stress and can be easily affected by wear and tear. Something as seemingly innocuous as tooth grinding or jaw clenching can contribute to a bite imbalance.

Can neuromuscular treatment stop your headaches?
A skilled neuromuscular dentist will do a full dental evaluation to determine the extent of your symptoms. If neuromuscular problems are suspected, your doctor will use state-of-the-art jaw tracking technology to pinpoint the location and cause of the pain.

The objective of neuromuscular treatment is to restore balance to the jaw through various methods of therapy. Oral appliances worn at night have proven very effective in alleviating headaches, jaw pain and other neuromuscular-related symptoms. For some patients, all that may be needed to restore balance is minor physical therapy and basic lifestyle adjustments (exercise, sleep, and diet changes). The good news is that most TMJ/TMD patients are able to achieve relief with safe, noninvasive therapies. Once the jaw joints can move fluidly without exhibiting strain or stress, the bite is considered stable and healthy.

Should you seek treatment?
While many neuromuscular problems eventually resolve on their own, for some, symptoms progressively worsen until they intrude on daily life. If you've been suffering from recurring or frequent headaches, you should see your family doctor to rule out medical causes. Then, seek the advice of a trained neuromuscular dentist.

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