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Your Migraines Might Be Caused by TMJ

May 09, 2023
Get a lot of migraines? Ever consider that your pain's root cause might be related to your jaw? If not, you're not alone. TMJ disorder is one of the most overlooked migraine triggers. Keep reading to learn more and discover your treatment options.

Migraines may start in your head, but if you're one of the millions who suffer from them, you know they threaten your entire well-being. 

You've been told the foods you eat, the habits you can't kick, and even the changes in weather can set off a migraine attack. But you might be shocked to learn that you can add jaw problems to that list. 

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder is behind many migraines, but most don't realize it, and even fewer understand why.  

Our team at Campustown Dental in Ames, Iowa knows that information is powerful, especially when it comes to problems like migraines. We want you to be aware of every threat to your health, oral and otherwise, so we're diving into the link between a jaw problem and your migraines

The jaw-migraine connection

Place your fingers just behind your ears and open and close your mouth. What you're feeling is your TMJ joint hard at work. 

The TMJ is the joint that connects your jawbone to your skull and is responsible for helping you chew, talk, and yawn. 

It's not exactly understood where TMJ disorder comes from, but most point to lifestyle factors like stress and poor posture, heredity, injury, and other underlying health problems like hormonal imbalances and arthritis. When you have TMJ disorder, you may experience:

  • Pain or tenderness in your jaw, face, or neck, particularly after eating or talking
  • Clicking or popping noises
  • Limited movement in your jaw and neck ("lockjaw")
  • Bruxism or teeth grinding
  • Teeth clenching
  • A misaligned bite
  • Stiff jaw muscles

TMJ disorder symptoms can even radiate beyond your mouth and jaw and cause shoulder pain, ringing in the ears, dizziness, and hearing loss. 

It's also linked to migraines. 

When the muscles in your TMJ become overworked or unbalanced, they put pressure on the trigeminal nerve, which can lead to a migraine attack. Tension in your jaw muscle begins in your jaw, spreads to your cheeks, and eventually makes its way up into the muscles at the top of your head, causing a TMJ headache. 

TMJ disorder and migraines also share many of the same triggers, namely stress and hormonal changes. TMJ disorder symptoms often occur at the same time as a tension headache (a type of headache set off by muscle tightness) or migraine. 

In some cases, a migraine can also trigger a TMJ flare-up.

What can I do to find relief?

If you think your migraines might be related to TMJ disorder, you can do a few things to find relief. First, identify any triggers that may be causing your migraines, and then take steps to manage or avoid them. This could include stress, certain foods, or even weather changes. 

Next, talk to one of our dentists about your symptoms. Your knee-jerk might not be to run to your dentist when you have a migraine, but if it’s stemming from TMJ disorder, it's the best place to start.

We can recommend exercises or therapies to help relieve your TMJ pain, such as a dental appliance to correct your bite or even surgery to repair the joint. 

At Campus Town Dental, we also offer a unique treatment for TMJ-related migraines: TruDenta®

TruDenta is equipped with an advanced diagnostic system, allowing us to closely examine your musculoskeletal system and uncover signs of inflammation and tension. We get a detailed view of the delicate nerves and ligaments that run through your head and jaw. 

If we determine that you have TMJ disorder, we can use TruDenta to treat it with a wide range of modalities, including ultrasound, low-level photobiomodulation, microcurrent, and manual muscle therapy. 

Depending on your needs, you may benefit from 1-12 treatments. Each session is an hour long, spaced one week apart. Our patients love TruDenta because it's an all-in-one, noninvasive, drug-free approach to TMJ disorder and migraines. 

If you suspect you have TMJ-triggered migraines and would like to see if you're a candidate for our advanced treatments, call our friendly staff at 515-292-7262 or use our online booking tool to schedule an appointment.