We all suffer headaches from time to time, but for some people, serious headaches occur with excruciating frequency. In certain cases, these recurring headaches may be related to a disorder of the temporomandibular joints (TMJ). Many patients have seen numerous medical specialists and still have no relief. This medical clearance is important as it rules out many problems.
Experienced dentist Dr. Ronald Konig can determine if a TMJ disorder is causing your headaches, and he can provide an effective TMJ treatment plan. To schedule a consultation, please call our Houston office at (713) 425-1302. Our TMJ dentistry office serves clients in Houston, Katy, Sugar Land and The Woodlands, Texas.
Types of Headaches linked to TMJ
Not every type of headache is related to the temporomandibular joints, and some headaches have no identifiable cause, which can make searching for headache treatment difficult. Most headaches fall into one of three categories:
- Primary headaches including tension, migraine and cluster headaches
- Secondary headaches are a sign of other conditions like meningitis, encephalitis, brain tumors or brain injuries
- Cranial neuralgias, facial pain and other headaches
Of these types, the headaches that may be caused by a TMJ disorder are:
- Tension headache
- Sinus headache
- Migraine-like headache
- Cranial neuralgias and facial pain
Primary headaches are the most common headaches, affecting more than 90 percent of the population. TMJ can often cause, trigger or worsen primary headaches. Tension headaches, the most common form of primary headaches, are often related to TMJ disorders.
Tension headaches present as diffuse pain across the entire head or a region of the head, and are often accompanied by muscle aches and tightness across the forehead. TMJ can contribute to tension headaches, increasing their frequency, length or severity. If you have tension headaches, especially morning headaches, neuromuscular evaluation is an essential part of your TMJ diagnosis.
Migraine headaches are still not completely understood, but can be triggered and mediated by TMJ as well as sleep apnea. TMJ treatment can provide an important complement to your other migraine treatments.
Cluster headaches do not seem to respond to TMJ treatment.
Causes of TMJ Headaches
The temporomandibular joints on either side of your head are surrounded by and connected to an extensive network of muscles, nerves, blood vessels and ligaments. Anything affecting the alignment, structure and function of the TMJs can result in a variety of symptoms, including frequent headaches.
Because the muscles and nerves around the TMJs are connected to the rest of your head, neck and shoulders, headaches can result from tension, strain or pressure on the joints. Only an individualized assessment can allow you to get a proper diagnosis of the cause of your TMJ headaches.
Oftentimes, sufferers of chronic headaches turn to medications to relieve their pain. If your headaches are TMJ-related, you may have been using pain medication for years without ever really getting the headache relief you need. Having a TMJ disorder diagnosed or ruled out can be your first step toward more effective pain relief.
Improper Bite Alignment as a Headache Cause
Another cause of painful and uncomfortable headaches could be a misaligned bite. Exerting pressure on the joints, ligaments and muscles of your face, neck and jaw, malocclusion can lead to headaches and many other painful symptoms. Our TMJ dentist can assess your bite and determine if malocclusion is causing your headaches.
In a properly aligned bite, the upper teeth fit over the lower teeth, and opposite molars fit together precisely. Bite misalignment – or "malocclusion" – is teeth and dental arches that do not align correctly or meet together in a position that puts tension on the joints and muscles.
Bite misalignment causes tension in the muscles of your head, jaw and neck, and this muscle tension can lead to headaches. You may experience tension headaches or even excruciating migraine-like headaches as a result of a bad bite. If you have been receiving migraine treatment, such as pain medications, you may experience temporary symptom relief while the cause of your headaches goes untreated.
Headaches are not the only undesirable consequence of a bad bite. Other symptoms that may be caused by malocclusion include:
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD)
- Speech difficulties
- Impaired chewing ability
- Neck pain
- Back and shoulder pain
There are several methods available to achieve proper alignment of your teeth and dental arches.
Treatment for Headaches and Bite Misalignment
If it is determined that TMJ dysfunction is the cause of your headaches and other symptoms, your treatment can consist of several different methods and actions. The first step is to provide bite management to relieve the symptoms. This may involve the use of an orthotic or alignment device that places your jaw in the correct position and allows the muscles to relax and the joints to heal.
After healing and the patient has no further symptoms, then other treatments can be used to get rid of the orthotic and provide long term stability.
Dr. Konig uses TENS technology, computer-assisted technology and a 3D scan to help relieve muscle pain and identify the optimal resting position of your jaw. The TENS device gently stimulates the muscles surrounding your jaw, increasing blood circulation to the area and alleviating pain and soreness. Once your jaw is relaxed, our TMJ dentist can make an impression of this bite position and create a customized orthotic device, which will move your bite into its optimal position.
If you live in or around Houston, Sugar Land, Katy or The Woodlands, Texas, and are searching for an experienced TMJ dentist to help you find effective, long-term headache relief, please call Dr. Ronald W. Konig at (713) 425-1302.