A headache can be very frustrating, even when you’re not suffering from the pain. Doctors often have a very hard time diagnosing the root cause of headaches. Some doctors may even dismiss the significance of your pain and not take them seriously. Most headache sufferers have visited several doctors and tried several treatments without success. If you are unhappy with your current headache treatment, you should consider that TMJ may be contributing to your headache.

If you are looking for a highly trained, deftly skilled, and deeply compassionate dentist in the Nashville, Tennessee area, then you’re looking for Dr. Forbes. To learn whether he is the dentist for you, please call (615) 383-6787 for an appointment at the Center for Advanced Dentistry in Nashville, TN.

Types of Headaches Associated With TMJ

TMJ is associated with two of the most common types of headaches, as well as some more unusual kinds. Just because your doctor has given you a diagnosis doesn’t mean that TMJ might not be involved. Here are some of the types associated with TMJ:

  • Tension headaches
  • Migraine headaches
  • Sinus headaches
  • Referred pain headaches

No matter what your headache diagnosis, if it is related to TMJ, TMJ treatment will reduce or resolve your headaches completely.

Tension Headaches and TMJ

Tension headaches are the most common type, accounting for perhaps 80-90% of all headaches. They are also the type most commonly associated with TMJ. In a tension headache, you may experience dull, diffuse pain on both sides of your head. Many people describe it as feeling like their head is being tightened in a vise or squeezed with a belt. The pain levels are described as being mild to moderate, but pain levels vary.

TMJ contributes to tension headaches because in TMJ your muscles are often overworked, tense, and tender. These muscle contractions aren’t directly the cause of your headache, but they contribute to the sensitization of your pain system, which is what leads to the headaches.

Migraines and TMJ

Migraines are complex headaches that are not commonly understood yet. They seem to derive from overstimulation of certain key nerves that trigger an adverse response in the brain. The brain releases vasodilators–hormones that cause blood vessels to expand–which create pain in the head because it leads to pressure on the brain. Migraines cause moderate to severe pain, typically on one side of the head, and they can last for a few hours or a few days. Many people experience symptoms before the migraine begins, such as bright lights or other visual artifacts, called an aura. Most also experience supplemental symptoms such as sensitivity to light, sound, or smells.

TMJ can cause migraines because tense jaw muscles can lead to overstimulation of the trigeminal nerve, the primary trigger point for migraines (though the vagus nerve might also be involved). The trigeminal nerve carries signals to and from the jaw muscles, and several branches of the trigeminal nerve wind under jaw muscles, giving many opportunities for overstimulation related to tense, overworked jaw muscles.

Sinus Headaches and TMJ

Most doctors agree that true sinus headaches are actually very rare. Instead, what people think of as sinus headaches are actually misdiagnosed migraines or tension headaches. Facial pain in the sinus regions (the face between the nose and eyes) is common in TMJ. Unless you are experiencing thick nasal discharge, and the pain resolves after a few days or goes away with antibiotic treatment, it’s likely that your so-called sinus headaches are actually TMJ related.

Referred Pain

Referred pain is an unusual condition in which pain from one part of the body is felt in another. This occurs because the brain has to interpret where pain signals are coming from along the trunk of a common nerve. Because the head and jaw communicate along the same nerve, jaw pain can be mistaken instead.

Is TMJ Responsible?

It is often hard to know whether TMJ is contributing to your headache pain. But if you have other TMJ symptoms (such as jaw pain, ringing in the ears, tooth pain not associated with decay, or excessive tooth wear), then it’s likely that TMJ is involved.

Dr. Forbes is a thorough neuromuscular dentist in Nashville, TN, and he will perform a comprehensive neuromuscular exam to determine an accurate diagnosis of your headache pain. If TMJ is involved, he will detect it and recommend an appropriate treatment.

If you live in Nashville, TN, or are prepared to travel for quality neuromuscular dentistry, please call (615) 383-6787 for an appointment at the Center for Advanced Dentistry.