Is TMJ Disorder Causing Your Chronic Headaches?

Is temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder the true cause of the headache pain you blamed on tension?

The idea that muscle, bone or nerve problems within the jaw joint can cause tension-type headaches might seem surprising, but the effect is not uncommon. In fact, many TMJ patients complain of referred pain in the sinuses, ears, cheeks, neck and head.
TMJ disorder headaches

TMJ Headaches Are Often Misdiagnosed

If your doctor diagnosed you with tension headaches, you may want to get a second opinion from a qualified local oral surgeon.

According to research from the University of Buffalo’s School of Dental Medicine, health care providers often inaccurately diagnose TMJ headaches as tension-related pain. The study, which involved 583 patients with previous symptoms of TMJ disorder, found that the temporomandibular joint was the cause of tension-type headache pain in 82 percent of the participants.

The similarity between TMJ headaches and tension headaches helps explain why the source of the problem is so frequently misdiagnosed.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

How do you know if TMJ disorder is the cause of your chronic headaches? Temporomandibular joint problems nearly always create additional symptoms. Warning signs may include:

  • Tenderness and pain in the jaw area
  • Difficulty biting food or pain while chewing
  • Popping, grating or clicking sounds with jaw movement
  • Stiffness or spasms in the jaw muscles
  • Locking of the joint or limited jaw movement
  • A change in how the teeth fit together

If you’ve noticed any of those symptoms, consult with a local oral surgeon. Oral surgeons are specialists of the mouth, teeth and jaws, and have the qualifications to correctly diagnose TMJ headaches.

Treating TMJ Disorder

Medication isn’t usually an effective way to treat TMJ headaches. Fortunately, oral surgeons can recommend a range of solutions.

For some patients, lifestyle changes — such as avoiding big, wide bites and keeping away from foods that require a lot of chewing — help alleviate the symptoms of TMJ disorder. For others, conservative treatments such as physical therapy, trigger point injections, stabilization splints, acupuncture and biofeedback provide relief.

Sometimes, lifestyle changes and conservative treatment aren’t enough to eliminate TMJ headaches. When symptoms persist, oral surgery may be an effective solution. Surgical treatment typically involves either arthrocentesis or arthroscopy, which are minimally invasive procedures performed in the oral surgeon’s office. However, patients with structural issues in the jaw joint may require arthroplasty, a more complex oral surgery procedure completed at a local hospital.

If you suffer from chronic headaches and want to know whether temporomandibular joint problems may be to blame, the professionals at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah can help you find the answer.

Our highly trained and board-certified oral surgeons, Dr. Partridge and Dr. Maxfield, are specialists in jaw-related facial conditions. To learn more about TMJ headaches, contact our Cottonwood Heights, South Jordan or Tooele office today and schedule a TMJ disorder consultation.