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Headaches and TMJ: How Are They Connected?

Headaches and TMJ: How Are They Connected?

TMJ disorders are more than just pain in your jaw. This problem can lead to a variety of other uncomfortable symptoms, including headaches. When you’re dealing with headaches, there are a number of different causes, with temporomandibular joint problems being one of them.

When your jaw hurts and you have pounding headaches that won’t quit, Dr. Katharine Christian and the team at The Snoring & Sleep Apnea Center can help. Dr. Christian is a DMD who is an expert in dental sleep medicine, including TMJ treatments.

Understanding TMJ

Your jaw has two joints on either side, known as your temporomandibular joints (TMJ). These joints allow your mouth to open and close, and the hinge in the joints also allow you to move your jaw from side-to-side.

Normally, these joints don’t cause pain when you chew and talk. However, when they deteriorate or become injured, you may end up with conditions known as TMJ disorders. These disorders cause pain or clicking in your jaw.

It’s not always completely understood what causes TMJ disorders. However, common reasons behind TMJ include arthritis, teeth grinding, and jaw injuries. This leads to several uncomfortable symptoms, including:

Headaches are also common when you suffer from TMJ, especially when you grind or clench your teeth.

How are TMJ and headaches connected?

Headaches are one of the many painful symptoms that accompany TMJ disorders. But how do the joints in your face lead to pain in your head?

The answer is pretty simple. Your TMJ joints are located on either side of your head, where your jaw connects to your skull. As with any other joint in the body, these joints are surrounded by ligaments and muscles that allow you to move. 

When you have a TMJ disorder, these muscles and ligaments can tense up. This often happens when you have TMJ and clench or grind your teeth. This puts added pressure on the muscles surrounding your jaw, which can spread into your face and up through your head.

TMJ headaches sometimes present like tension headaches, and they may affect different areas of your head. These headaches also usually are accompanied by other symptoms, such as restricted jaw movement and facial pain.

When to get treatment for your symptoms

If you’re noticing pain in your jaw or face that’s sometimes accompanied by a headache, don’t delay treatment. TMJ doesn’t go away on its own, and your symptoms often get worse without treatment.

Dr. Christian offers several treatments when you’re dealing with TMJ disorders. Sometimes, simply incorporating lifestyle changes can help you get rid of your pain. Eating softer foods, applying heat to your jaw, and performing gentle stretching are some conservative options.

If after trying these approaches you’re still dealing with headaches and jaw pain, Dr. Christian recommends other treatments, such as anti-inflammatory medications, steroids, or muscle relaxers. 

If you grind your teeth, oral appliances like mouth guards and splints can keep pressure off of your jaw and help your muscles relax.

Taking control of your TMJ can help you get rid of your jaw pain and headaches. If you’re tired of dealing with facial pain and associated headaches, seek treatment for your symptoms at The Snoring & Sleep Apnea Center.

Call our office in Seattle, Washington, today at 206-905-6998, or request an appointment using our online booking tool. Dr. Christian also provides telehealth appointments for your convenience.

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