Does TMJ Cause Headaches?

The hinge-like temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, plays a pivotal role in your body: it’s the joint connecting your jawbone to your skull, and one is located on each side of your jaw. Because of your TMJ, you can yawn, swallow, speak, and chew — all vital everyday activities.

When there’s a problem with how your TMJ functions, it can lead to a world of pain, from discomfort in your face to jaw and neck pain. Unfortunately, you can also suffer jaw muscle spasms and bite problems. Still, a particularly debilitating and persistent problem those afflicted with TMJ disorder experience is headaches, from the garden-variety type to migraines.

In addition to advanced orthodontic treatment, Rad Orthodontics treats TMJ disorder, which is thought to affect over 10 million people. Dr. Mehdy Rad, Dr. David Rad, Dr. Carmine Petrarca, and the Rad team have special training in identifying TMJ disorder, which affects millions and formulating highly personalized treatment plans to address it.

What is TMJ disorder’s link to headaches?

The TMJ muscles are in your jaw and run up your cheeks. When your jaw muscles are tense, the pain can radiate upward along the sides of your cheeks and straight up to the top of your head. This is a setup for a classic tension headache.

In addition to everyday headaches being fueled by TMJ disorder, the condition can also provoke migraines, a more severe type of headache. Migraines can put you out of commission for several days and make you nauseous and very sensitive to light and sound.

Any clenching of your jaws, whether in your sleep or chewing gum, can lead to a migraine. TMJ-related migraines are often recurrent in the same part of your face as well.

How do I get a definitive TMJ headache diagnosis?

The Rad Orthodontics team is fully qualified to determine whether your headaches are likely due to TMJ. We analyze your detailed medical history and request that you move your jaw, as we study it carefully.

Observing how much and how far you can move your jaw and listening to it (a popping sound is a strong indication of TMJ) while you move it around can assist in making a diagnosis. We might also recommend an imaging test, as an X-ray can give your doctor a clear insight into what’s going on inside your jaw.

As we go through this process, we welcome your questions and keep you fully informed about our diagnostic strategy.

You’re suffering from TMJ-induced headaches: Now what?

If we arrive at a TMJ diagnosis for you, that’s half the battle. The other half is finding the root cause of your TMJ disorder. Your condition could originate from:

  • Clenching your jaw while sleeping
  • Arthritis
  • An autoimmune condition
  • Injury
  • Infection
  • Dental work

No matter where your TMJ headaches emanate from, we advise you on habits you can adopt to relieve your symptoms. Applying ice to your inflamed jaw, eating softer foods as opposed to those that are hard and crunchy, taking over-the-counter pain relievers, and practicing a series of jaw exercises regularly can all make a big difference.

Try also to avoid activities that work your jaw incorrectly or too strenuously, like chewing gum, and put other practices into place, like stabilizing your chin with your fist as you yawn and becoming more conscious about proper posture.

If needed, we also fit you with an oral appliance designed to lessen your pain.

The earlier you get TMJ disorder treatment, the better

We want to help you ASAP with your case of TMJ-related headaches. Call our office to set up a consultation, or contact us through our website. Know also that we take every precaution to keep you safe from COVID-19 when you visit us in-person.

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