That Chronic Headache May Be TMJ: We Have Solutions

Headaches are one of the most common medical complaints among men and women of all ages. Sometimes, a headache may occur only occasionally, and it may resolve just as rapidly. But for millions of people, headaches are a regular occurrence, and over time, they can take a big toll on your comfort and your quality of life.

Lots of factors can cause headaches, including the stress of leading a super-busy life. But when headaches are chronic, there’s a really good chance they’re being caused by a physical problem — and there’s also a good chance that the problem could be TMJ

What causes TMJ?

Also called temporomandibular joint disorder, TMJ usually develops in people who have a habit of clenching or grinding their teeth. Excessive clenching and grinding puts a lot of strain on the jaw joints and on the muscles that control them. Although anyone can develop a clenching or grinding habit (especially if you're stressed out), these habits often occur in people with unbalanced or uneven bite mechanics. Your teeth are designed to work in pairs — upper and lower — and when this balance is "out of whack," you may unconsciously grind or clench your teeth as your jaws work to find that natural balance. No matter what causes those habits, the increased strain from grinding and clenching causes the muscles and the joint components to become inflamed and irritated, resulting in chronic headaches (and sometimes other symptoms like jaw pain and clicking).

TMJ treatment options

If TMJ is caused by an uneven bite, sometimes the condition can be “cured” by rebalancing the bite with a series of dental treatments like extractions, bridges, or implants to correct your bite balance. When TMJ can’t be entirely “cured,” its symptoms can still be effectively controlled with treatment options designed to reduce stress and strain on the joint. At IQ Family & Cosmetic Dentistry, Dr. Quagliata helps patients find the TMJ solutions that work best for them.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy for TMJ typically focuses on relieving strain in the muscles around the jaw joints, lower face, and neck. Therapy may include hands-on techniques to reduce stiffness and tension in the joint components, and it can also include exercises you do on your own to improve strength and flexibility in those muscles.

Mouth guards

Many patients with TMJ find their symptoms can be relieved with mouth guards shaped specifically for their mouths. The guards usually are worn at night to help prevent teeth grinding that can result in excess strain on the jaw joints. Since each guard is molded on a patient-by-patient basis using state-of-the-art materials, mouth guards can be very comfortable to wear.

BOTOX injections

Yes, the same BOTOX used to treat wrinkles and crow’s feet can be used to relieve painful TMJ symptoms. BOTOX works by blocking nerve signals that trigger muscle contractions. In TMJ treatment, precise placement of BOTOX injections helps prevent your jaw muscles from clenching and straining so inflammation and irritation are relieved. The amount of BOTOX used in TMJ therapy is not enough to interfere with normal jaw movements. Plus, BOTOX injections can also soften the hard, angular jawlines that tend to form in people who clench their teeth repeatedly.

All these treatments can be combined with over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin and ibuprofen to help relieve both pain and inflammation inside the jaw joints. In some cases, Dr. Quagliata may prescribe muscle relaxers to relieve the strain and imbalance that can cause or contribute to TMJ symptoms.

Are you suffering from TMJ symptoms?

If you’re experiencing the painful symptoms of TMJ, Dr. Quagliata can help. The first step toward feeling better is to make an appointment so you can be evaluated and a custom treatment plan can be designed just for you. Ready to start feeling better? Book an appointment online today.

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