Your jaw joint, technically called the temporomandibular joint or TMJ is one of the busiest parts of your body. It is constantly in motion and under a lot of stress when eating and talking. Unlike other joints in your body, it has two insertion points that mirror each other and must work in tandem.
When one or both joints become misaligned you can have all sorts of problems, some of them difficult to diagnose. Headaches are one of the leading symptoms of TMJ, but are frequently misdiagnosed as being related to other maladies. These problems are part of a condition called temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). Columbus, Ohio physiologic dentist Dr. Michael Firouzian can diagnose and treat headaches and TMJ.
Relation between Headaches and TMJ
The insertion point of your jaw is a nexus of nerves, blood vessels, muscles, and connective tissue. Because it works in tandem with its opposite TMJ any misalignment can affect one or more of these other vital elements. The trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for the majority of your head and facial processes, passes near the TMJ. It is thought that frequent headaches may be a result of pressure or damage to this nerve. Some common headache types associated with TMJ include:
- Tension headaches
- Facial pain
- Sinus headaches
- Migraine headaches
Unfortunately, most of these types of headaches can be signs and symptoms of other medical problems, including serious ones. It is important to get a proper diagnosis to rule out other serious medical issues.
Causes of TMJ
A major part of diagnosing TMD is finding the natural alignment of the jaw, then see what issues may be knocking it out of alignment, then addressing those issues. There are many things that can cause your jaw to get out of its natural alignment. Some of the most common include:
- Poor eating habits
- Bruxism, or grinding your teeth
- Misaligned teeth
- Sleep Disorders/Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is thought to contribute to TMJ because it can lead to night bruxism. When your airway closes at night, the jaw may clamp down to help reopen it.
Treating TMJ Induced Headaches
Since most TMJ problems occur because the jaw joint is misaligned to some degree, the job of the physiologic dentist is to try to get the joint back into proper alignment. There are many ways to treat TMJ depending on the root cause; some of these include:
- Changing eating habits
- Physical therapy
- Mouth guards
- Dental implants
- Dental crowns
- Traditional Orthodontics
Read about Neck Pain Due to TMJ
Dr. Firouzian will opt for the more conservative methods first and only move to more invasive procedures when absolutely necessary.