TMJ Headache Treatment by Your Dentist
Do you sometimes struggle with migraines or headaches that don’t seem to go away? Do you experience pain or soreness that emanates from the jaw? Then you could be suffering from a common dental joint problem referred to as TMJ dysfunction. A dentist can identify the underlying condition and treat or help manage this condition.
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What is TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint, TMJ for short, is the joint that connects the mandible (lower jaw) to the rest of your head, the base of your skull. This joint is prone to misalignment and other forms of damage, particularly after an accident. When this happens, it may cause symptoms varying from discomfort to excruciating pain. It can cause migraines and headaches that range from mild to acute pain, a condition known as TMD (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder) or MPDS (Myofascial Pain Dysfunction Syndrome)
The relationship between TMJ and headache
Currently, primary headache or migraine ranks as the 19th most prevalent disease worldwide by the World Health Association. Both primary and chronic or secondary headaches may come from TMD.
When you have TMD, jaw movement is not in sync and free-flowing as normal. The stress and pressure exerted on the TMJ and surrounding muscles result in primary or secondary headaches.
Factors that cause TMJ headache
Various factors can cause a TMJ headache. Most commonly, the pain emanates from an injured or stressed jaw due to an accident. It may also be as a result of your teeth not fitting together properly when biting (malocclusion) or the fact that missing teeth in the mouth may cause you to adopt an accommodating, unbalanced chewing pattern.
Any alteration or even a broken tooth may bring about such an irregularity between the upper and the lower teeth. It is this irregularity that leads to the clenching and grinding of your teeth unnaturally. This is how damage occurs to your internal joint structure, causing the TMJ headache.
Symptoms of a TMJ headache
Unlike other headaches, TMJ headaches are accompanied by other symptoms such as facial pain. Also, you may feel like the movement of your jaw is somewhat restricted or notice some significant changes in how you chew or bite. Other symptoms include the clicking of the jaws as well as the tightening of the jaw muscles.
Treatment and management of TMJ headache
Several forms of treatment can be administered to an individual with TMD. Your dentist can diagnose and treat TMJ headaches. Below are various treatment methods for TMJ problems, depending on their nature and severity
A dentist may prescribe treatment after identifying the underlying cause of your TMJ headache. If you are experiencing a lot of pain, the dentist can prescribe some drugs. But if it is mild, they may recommend a lifestyle change.
Stabilization is another common treatment option for people with TMJ headaches. However, most of these treatments are just temporary remedies as the problem may persist.
Your dentist can also design and custom-make a therapeutic splint that acts to break the vicious circle of clenching your teeth and causing even more muscular damage
If a malocclusion is perpetuating the problem, orthodontic treatment (braces) is commonly used to correct the bite and alleviate the pressure on the TMJ.
Surgical treatment works best where the TMJ headache is caused by the misalignment of teeth due to an underlying jaw bone malformation. It is a permanent solution that seeks to correct the underlying structural problem of the tissues surrounding the jaws or teeth.
The ultimate objective is to change how you bite. Unfortunately, surgical treatments are not always as effective as expected and require a longer treatment time.
Neuromuscular dentistry is a discipline that encompasses nerves, muscles of the head as well as those of the neck to identify any issues that may be affecting the jaws. It is an efficient and effective approach to diagnose and treat TMJ headaches when simpler treatment methods are ineffective
A neuromuscular dentist can, therefore, examine a patient’s jaw, head, or neck to determine if the headaches are as a result of TMD. Neurotherapy is conducted where the symptoms of the headache resemble those of TMD and there is no other obvious cause for the headaches, but the dentist has to identify the underlying issue and treat it in the best way possible. Such treatment can be carried out in liaison with a neurologist or neurosurgeon and any other medical professionals deemed necessary according to a particular situation as part of a multidisciplinary team.
When presented with a possible TMJ headache, the dentist conducts a thorough examination to check if the patient’s jaw or teeth are misaligned. Depending on the intensity of the pain, a neuromuscular dentist may ask you to make certain lifestyle changes or address the issue at hand through TMJ therapy.
Neuromuscular dentists offer TMJ headache therapy. This is a kind of treatment that relaxes your muscles so that they don’t strain. They achieve this by aligning the temporomandibular joint, such that the patient’s jaw assumes the optimal position. As such, TMJ therapy helps get rid of migraines, headaches, and other severe symptoms. TMJ therapy is done in 3 stages.
Steps involved in TMJ headache therapy
Neuromuscular dentists render TMJ therapy in the three steps as explained below;
Stabilizing your bite
The dentist constructs a device known as a therapeutic or orthotic splint for use during the early stages of TMJ headache therapy. This is a removable device that is placed over the patient’s teeth to align their bite.
With this device, the dentist can make adjustments to your bite, without having to adjust your teeth. The device acts as a bite stabilizer. After the symptoms are managed, the dentist moves to the other steps, which are all about adjusting your bite to its optimal position permanently.
Relieving muscle spasm and pain
The symptoms of a TMJ headache are troublesome and can tremendously affect the quality of your life or even cause chronic headaches. The work of a neuromuscular dentist is to help relieve such symptoms in the best way possible. At this point, the dentist uses cutting-edge technology known as ULF-TENS to stimulate your body’s endorphin production and ease the headache. The endorphin acts as an anaesthetic and it delivers the much-needed relief.
Once the headache therapy dentist executes the first two steps, they move on to long-term management of the condition. This may revolve around reshaping your enamel or smoothening it to rectify your bite. This procedure is medically referred to as Coronoplasty or contouring. In delicate cases, the dentist may opt for the reconstruction of any number of teeth or complete rehabilitation of the bite
Most people live with TMJ migraines and headaches without knowing what is happening to them. In mild situations, you may live comfortably with occasional over the counter pain medication. Besides that, the symptoms may clear by themselves. However, if you are experiencing severe headaches and other similar TMJ headache symptoms, it could be an indicator that you need help from your dentist.
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