TMJ and Headaches

tmj and headaches

Serving Amarillo, Canyon, Dalhart and the surrounding Texas Panhandle

Everyone gets a headache from time to time. However, if you are experiencing headaches on a regular basis—especially headaches of the severe variety—it can be a sign of a more serious problem.

Some individuals suffer from painful headaches of a severe intensity quite often. These headaches often are diagnosed as migraines. At the Esler Dental Group, however, we encounter many patients who complain they suffer from migraines when temporomandibular joint disorder is the actual cause of their headaches.

Even if you have been diagnosed as having migraines, temporomandibular joint disorder (or TMJ for short) could be the cause. It is not uncommon for doctors to misdiagnose TMJ headaches as migraines.

However, there is good news. If TMJ is the cause of your headaches, then the Esler Dental Group can provide relief. Dr. Clinton Esler is experienced and highly trained in neuromuscular dentistry, a specialization of the dental field that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of TMJ.

How does TMJ cause headaches?

The temporomandibular joint is small but it can have a big impact on your health and your daily life if it becomes dysfunctional. This joint connects your jaw to your skull. When there is a problem with the temporomandibular joint, it often affects the way your jaw joints function. You may hear clicks or pops when opening and closing your jaws, or range of motion may be limited altogether. Over time, an issue with your temporomandibular joint can lead to problems with your jaws, as well as the nearby muscles, nerves, and blood vessels.

One nerve that is close to the temporomandibular joint is the trigeminal nerve, which is a highly important part of your nervous system. The trigeminal nerve transmits more sensory input than any other neural pathway in your entire body—even more than the spinal cord itself.

The trigeminal nerve has a host of other functions, such as:

  • Delivering commands on facial impressions
  • Involuntary functions, such as managing the safety and comfort of the brain via blood supply and air pressure
  • Pain signals

While the exact cause of migraines remains uncertain despite decades of medical science, researchers agree that the trigeminal nerve is closely linked to regularly occurring chronic headaches because of the aforementioned signals of pain. Diagnostic tools such as MRIs, which indicate the trigeminal nerve becomes aggravated when a person who undergoes migraines or other types of frequently occurring painful headaches is in the midst of an attack, validate this.

If you have TMJ, the trigeminal nerve often is affected because of its proximity to the temporomandibular joint. The TMJ creates tension or other stimuli around the trigeminal nerve, creating the painful headaches that can occur on a regular basis.

How can a dentist treat headaches caused by TMJ?

If you think you have TMJ or experience headaches caused by TMJ, then you should seek the care of a neuromuscular dentist. Neuromuscular dentistry is a specialization of the science that focuses on the alignment of your bite and jaw. This specialization requires an extensive amount of post-graduate education and training.

Click here to learn more about neuromuscular dentistry, and how a neuromuscular dentist uses training and technology to detect a case of TMJ.

At the Esler Dental Group, we can use a variety of techniques to treat TMJ. However, the consensus science on TMJ currently recommends the use of oral appliance therapy whenever possible to treat the disorder. In oral appliance therapy, we custom-design a mouth guard for the most comfortable and secure fit, providing maximum comfort as well as maximum effectiveness. The oral appliance shifts your jaws back into their ideal alignment, alleviating the pressure on the temporomandibular joint and resolving any symptoms stemming from the disorder—such as painful headaches. The oral appliance is adjustable by the dentist to suit your changing needs for TMJ treatment.

Click here to learn more about the difference between TMJ headaches and migraines.

Although this page can be useful when determining if TMJ is causing your headaches, we recognize that this is often a complicated topic that individuals often have a greater understanding of following a face-to-face meeting with a medical professional. If you or someone you love has been suffering from chronic painful headaches, then TMJ could be the cause. If you are dealing with headaches caused by TMJ, they will not go away on their own. Normal treatments for headaches and migraines will manage only the intensity of the symptoms during a headache and do nothing to reduce their frequency.

Headaches are just one of the common symptoms of TMJ. Click here for a more thorough list.

Are you experiencing headaches caused by TMJ? If you would like to schedule an in-person consultation with Dr. Esler, call the office of the Esler Dental Group today at (806) 358-8021.

The Esler Dental Group serves patients in the areas of Amarillo, Canyon, Dalhart and the surrounding Texas Panhandle.

6834 Plum Creek Dr.

Amarillo, TX 79124

(806) 358-8021

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