Understanding the Link Between TMJ and Migraines


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A migraine is defined as a headache that happens often and can be intensely painful. People
who experience migraines describe it as a throbbing pain and may be sensitive to light, sound,
and smell while experiencing an episode.

Dysfunction of your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a noted cause of headaches such as
migraines [1]. Your TMJ connects your lower jaw to the skull and allows you to chew and speak
with ease. However, when a problem exists with the TMJ, pain and discomfort are often the result. Let’s take a closer look at the link between TMJ disorders and migraines.

Muscle Tension Can Cause Migraines

When the TMJ is stressed, out of alignment, or inflamed, it can affect the surrounding muscles
which exist underneath your jaw and on the sides of your head.

In turn, the muscles that support the TMJ can become tense and this tension can radiate out
into the head, neck, and even your shoulders or back.

The TMJ is a powerful joint that allows us to chew tough foods. When something is amiss with
this important joint, it’s not surprising that it has the power to cause painful migraines as a
result of inflammation and stress.

You May Have a Misaligned Bite

Why would the TMJ become stressed or inflamed?

TMJ disorders are often caused by malocclusion, which is the incorrect position of the teeth
when the jaw is closed. Having a malocclusion means your bite is misaligned and can put strain
on your jaw.

With an improper bite, your jaw is constantly trying to compensate for the misalignment, so
tension and stress result, especially on the surrounding muscles. A misaligned bite or issues with the TMJ can also make teeth grinding more likely, which can also lead to headaches or migraines!

Treatment That Actually Works

While not all headaches will be attributable to TMJ disorders, ruling out TMJ as the cause could
be an essential part of treating your migraines [2].

If your doctor has ruled out a medical cause for your migraines, it’s time to visit your dentist.

Your dentist can conduct a thorough exam and be able to tell if a problem with your TMJ could
be causing your headaches.

Unfortunately, many people who experience migraines never suspect that their jaw may be the
culprit, leading their pain to go either undiagnosed and improperly treated.

If your TMJ is found to be the underlying issue, your dentist can put measures in place to treat
your TMJ pain. If a misaligned bite is the issue, orthodontics or other oral appliances may be
able to help. For some patients, stress is found to be the cause of their TMJ inflammation and
so stress management is essential.

Physical therapy may also be able to help. It’s also important that you don’t exert your TMJ by
chewing gum or other foods that are particularly hard to eat.

When understanding the link between migraines and TMJ, it’s important to know that problems
with the TMJ can actually cause severe headaches. By simply visiting your dentist, you could
rule out a potential problem or even uncover the root cause of your pain and receive treatment
that actually works!

Sources:
1. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Hope-Through-
Research/Headache-Hope-Through-Research
2. https://healthcare.utah.edu/the-scope/shows.php?shows=0_bt01oaam

Summary
Understanding the Link Between TMJ and Migraines
Article Name
Understanding the Link Between TMJ and Migraines
Description
Your TMJ connects your lower jaw to the skull and allows you to chew and speak with ease. However, when a problem exists with the TMJ, pain and discomfort are often the result.
Author
Lansdowne Dental Associates