HEALTH AND WELLNESS
Headaches, TMJ & TMD
Frequent Morning Headaches? Jaw Pain & Popping?
Most people guess that jaw pain is a dental issue. But people are usually surprised to hear that waking up with headaches or sore face muscles can be a dental problem too!
Headaches and facial pain are often caused by jaw joint problems. The jaw joint, called the Temporomandibular Joint or TMJ, is one of the most complex and most used joints in the body. If you suffer from jaw pain, facial pain, limited opening or morning headaches, you most likely have something going on inside your jaw joint.
Dentists Fix Headaches and Jaw Problems?
But…Dentists fix teeth, right?
What can a dentist do for a problem INSIDE my jaw joint?
How can a dentist fix a headache?
We hear these questions all the time. Patients with jaw joint issues almost always end up in my chair AFTER they’ve already seen a ton of doctors for headaches and pain. They’ve usually spent a lot of money, tried a lot of drugs, and maybe even been told that “it’s all in their head.” This isn’t because doctors are incompetent. This happens because most doctors aren’t trained in jaw health.
The truth is that not all dentists are either. I was fortunate that my mentor in dental school was a jaw health specialist who gave me a strong foundation in jaw health and treating TMJ related problems. After dental school, I took a number of extra courses in jaw health, treating TMD (TMJ Disorders), headaches, and bite analysis.
Whether you decide to come see me or not, be sure that the professional you seek help from has training and experience treating jaw conditions. Because the jaw joint is complex and sensitive to movements as small a fraction of a millimeter, treating it effectively requires knowledge and skill beyond dental school.
The Problem IS “In Your Head…” But The Solution Is In Your Mouth!
Technically the jaw joint is in your head – so the problem is in your head too. However, because most jaw problems involve the facial muscles and the shock absorbing disc inside the joint, the solution for most jaw problems involves relieving the stress and pressure put on the joint so that muscles can relax and the disc can repair and reposition itself. What puts pressure on the jaw joint? The jaws. So most solutions involve a detailed bite analysis and a series of customized bite splints designed to relieve jaw stress and tension in the facial muscles.
Nightguards Don’t Work for You?
Lots of people come in with TMJ issues and they’ve already had a bad nightguard experience. If you’ve tried a nightguard and it didn’t do anything for your headaches, you’re probably doubtful that anything like a nightguard could help. If you’re one of these folks, hang on to your hats and glasses!
Nightguards and the custom bite splints we use to treat TMJ issues and headaches look a lot alike. They’re both made from plastic and they both fit over the teeth. The similarities stop there.
While many nightguards are thin or even soft plastic, our bite splints are made from a special, extra durable acrylic that can be polished smooth. A smooth surface is key to helping muscles relax and reducing the pressure on the jaw joint.
Bite splints are also customized to each person’s bite. This customization is a multi-visit adjustment process that continues until the jaw joint is stable and muscles are relaxed. At each adjustment visit, the splint surface is checked and modified to make sure that all the teeth have exactly the right amount of contact with the splint. This balancing is key to relieving headaches. It insures that no muscles are building up the stress and tension that causes TMD related headaches.
Bite splints’ special design means that they protect both the teeth and the jaw joint. Sometimes people are hesitant to try bite splint therapy for headaches if they’ve already had a nightguard and it didn’t help. This skepticism is completely understandable. Bite splint therapy is so unique in medicine, it’s something most people have to experience for themselves in order to believe that it’s possible.