Headaches are among the most common type of pain, with virtually everyone experiencing them. Although they are common, they can also be mysterious because they are not a very specific symptom. People who suffer from headaches may have difficulty getting treatment because there are so many different headache causes. If you have regular headaches that haven’t responded to treatments, it’s possible that TMJ is to blame for your headaches.

To be evaluated for TMJ headaches in Centennial, please call 303-759-5652 or email Park Meadows Dental Care for an appointment.

Is TMJ Responsible for Your Headaches?

Not all headaches can be traced back to TMJ, but perhaps 10% of the population suffers from TMJ, making it a more common headache cause than migraines. But how do you know if TMJ is responsible for your headaches? Normally, a TMJ headache will be associated with other TMJ symptoms, such as:
Woman laying down, suffering from a headache.

  • Jaw pain
  • Neck pain
  • Face pain
  • Ear ache, ear stuffiness
  • Tinnitus
  • Vertigo or dizziness
  • Worn, cracked, or chipped teeth
  • Jaw popping or clicking
  • Inability to open jaw fully
  • Irregular jaw motion
  • Tingling or numbness in the fingers

If you have one or more of these additional symptoms, it’s likely that TMJ is responsible for your headaches, or is at least a contributing factor.

TMJ and Tension Headaches

The most common type of headache is the tension headache. Tension headaches are caused by tense muscles in the head. These muscles may be tense because of tension in your jaw muscles.

No muscle in the human body works alone. Muscles always work in teams, and normally even teams team up together to accomplish the multitude of tasks required of them. Our jaw muscles work together as a team, but they also partner with muscles in the head. When our jaw muscles are stressed, they will tend to rely more on their team muscles for help. Sometimes, your jaw muscles may recruit muscles in your head to help try to pull the jaw into place. Other times, your jaw muscles may actually be working against muscles in your head in trying to maneuver your jaw.

In either case, muscles in your head experience tension that causes pain in your head. The pain may be behind both your eyes, and is long-lasting and achy. It will typically respond well to over-the-counter pain medications, but it returns frequently.

Referred Pain Headaches

Another common way that TMJ causes headaches is with referred pain. In referred pain, you may feel pain in one place even though the actual source of the pain is somewhere else. The most common example of this pain is heart attack pain that may be felt in the left arm, or even the jaw.

Referred pain occurs because our nerves are shared. Sensations travel from one branch of the nerve, then join up with the nerve trunk before being carried to the brain. The brain knows that the pain is coming from something along the trunk, but it doesn’t know what branch. Your brain guesses which branch it’s coming from, and sometimes it’s wrong.

Pain from the jaw and pain from your face–all the way up to your temples—all comes from the same nerve trunk. As a result, jaw pain may be misinterpreted as a headache.

TMJ Treatment for Headaches

Whether TMJ is causing your headaches through tension or through referred pain, treating your TMJ will reduce both the frequency of the headaches and their intensity.

If you are suffering from recurring headaches and have been unable to get relief, we might be able to help. To be evaluated for TMJ headaches in Centennial, please contact Park Meadows Dental Care today.