Headaches? It Could Be TMJ

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Often, when you develop a headache, you have some idea of its cause. It might be eye strain from a long day at a computer or perhaps you had a poor night’s sleep. Other times, headaches seem spontaneous, without an obvious reason. 

When such headaches are frequent and feel like tension headaches yet you’re not particularly feeling stress or pressure, the cause could be from an unexpected source: the hinge joint that permits the movement of your jaw when you eat or speak. 

An unexpected treatment option may be available through your dentist. Volterra Dental specializes in temporomandibular joint (TMJ) therapy, which can help return your jaw function back to normal while banishing its related headaches. 

TMJ disorders

Sometimes described as TMD, short for temporomandibular disorders, problems usually begin at the points where your lower jaw rotates. Though the dominant motion of the lower jaw is hinge-like, there are also sliding motions in various directions. This adds to the complexity of the TMJ. 

There’s a cushioning disc between the ball of the lower jaw and the socket where it meets the skull. When this disc becomes irritated or inflamed, you could start to feel TMJ headaches. Reasons for joint disorders aren’t always known, but possible causes of the condition include: 

  • Bruxism, grinding of the teeth
  • Dislocation or injury of the jaw
  • Arthritis affecting the TMJ
  • Tooth and/or jaw alignment
  • Stress or tension affecting the muscles of the jaw

There may be other symptoms that accompany these headaches. The muscles of your face and jaw may feel tight or tense, or you may have facial aches and pains. Mobility of your jaw could feel limited or it may create clicking sounds as you open and close your mouth. Your teeth may feel as though they don’t line up. 

Self-care for TMD

Typically, TMJ problems respond well to conservative treatments. While resting of your jaw may not be practical since it’s necessary for nutrition and communication, there are still steps you can take, such as switching to soft foods for a few days or using over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain medications (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen to reduce pain and ease swelling. Cold compresses may also help. 

How we can help

Dental treatments for TMD include custom-fitted night guards. These are oral appliances that resemble protective athletic mouthpieces. The night guard holds your teeth apart and cushions them as you sleep, so you’re protected against nighttime bruxism. This takes strain off the TMJ, giving the discs a chance to recover. 

In cases where tooth alignment is a potential cause, we may recommend treatments to improve the way your upper and lower teeth line up. Invisalign® is an alternative to traditional orthodontics, and it’s a treatment we proudly offer our patients. The Invisalign trays also act as a night guard as you sleep, giving your jaw a much-needed break. 

In Los Alamitos, California, call on Volterra Dental for help with TMJ headaches. You can reach our office by phone or online to schedule a consultation. Book an appointment today.