TMJ Headache & Jaw Pain Treatment
Is Your Jaw Giving You a Headache?
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If you have a headache, your first reaction may be the medicine cabinet for pain relief or a visit to the doctor. However, if the problem persists it might be something you should mention to your dentist as the cause may actually lie in your mouth.
Dental treatments for headaches are extremely effective and are beginning to gain credibility within medical circles. So much credibility, in fact, that one of the nation’s largest headache groups, the American Academy of Craniofacial Pain, recognized dentistry’s role in treating headache and facial pain.
Dr. Rod Willey, founder of Koala® Center For Sleep & TMJ Disorders , has seen a significant percentage of his patient’s benefit from a dental treatment for their headaches. “I have many patients who come to me complaining of headaches, jaw and facial pain as well as pain in the ears, never realizing that their pain was caused by a misalignment in their jaw,” says Willey.
It is believed that 45 million Americans have chronic headaches, and the economic costs due to job absenteeism, lost production, and medical expenses are estimated to be as high as $50 billion annually.
Approximately 35 million also suffer from TMJ problems known as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD), caused by an imbalanced bite. When the joint causes pressure to be put on the nerves, muscles, and blood vessels that pass near the head, pain can result. “If you suffer from continual headaches or migraines, especially first thing in the morning, pain behind your eyes, jaw clenching or teeth grinding, sinus pains and pains in the neck or shoulders, you should consider booking an appointment with your dentist, as well as a doctor, as soon as possible,” says Willey.
Many people have imperfect dental occlusion yet never show symptoms as they adjust to their problem. For those who do suffer, teeth and gums may be affected, and instead of headaches you may encounter broken teeth, fillings, loose teeth and toothache with no apparent cause. If you have any of these problems, you should see a dentist right away.
Patients suffering from these symptoms usually consult their primary care physician first, and then are referred on to an ENT or Neurologist dependent upon their symptoms. If the symptoms persist the specialists may then refer them on to a dentist to rule out jaw problems associated with TMD.
More and more physicians are realizing the benefits of a dental treatment for TMD. “We have a number of ENT’s and Neurologists that have referred their patients to us when their symptoms showed signs of TMD,” says Willey.
Dr. Willey explains that simply normalizing the bite with a custom fitted mouth appliance resembling an athletic mouth guard can help many headache sufferers. These non-invasive appliances, called orthotics are created to find the true rest position for the jaw, which promotes healing and maintains the new, corrected bite position. “While the orthotic will temporarily stabilize the jaw, permanent stabilization may be necessary,” says Costaras. Options may include wearing a long-term orthotic, providing orthodontic treatment, placing crowns or veneers on the affected teeth, or creating a neuromuscular denture.