TMJ is an abbreviation commonly used to describe a certain condition of the jaw. It is characterized by pain and limited range of motion in the jaw, among a variety of other symptoms. But can TMJ disorder cause headaches? 

If you’ve been experiencing headaches, there may be a number of causes. Learn more about TMJ to determine if this disorder may be the cause of your headaches. Then talk to your dentist about diagnosis and treatment. 

What is TMJ? 

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, the location on each side of your face where your lower jaw connects to your head. If you place your fingers in front of your ears while you open and close your mouth, you’ll feel the TMJ working. When this joint becomes strained or misaligned, the resulting condition is called TMJ disorder. 

Common Symptoms of TMJ Disorder 

TMJ disorder may be defined by any of the following symptoms: 

  • Consistent pain in the jaw. 
  • Pain when chewing. 
  • A popping or clicking sound when opening and closing your mouth. 
  • Limited range of motion in your jaw.
  • Locked jaw. 
  • Tight facial muscles.
  • Ear pain.
  • Headaches. 

If you are experiencing one or a combination of the above symptoms, you may have TMJ disorder. Talk to your general dentist about your symptoms for an official diagnosis and treatment. 

What Causes TMJ Disorder? 

TMJ disorder can result from a variety of potential causes: 

  • Teeth grinding. If you grind your teeth or clench your jaw frequently it puts strain on the TMJ that can cause the joint to become inflamed, resulting in swollen muscles and limited range of motion. 
  • Injury. An injury involving a blow to the jaw can knock the TMJ out of alignment. As you move your jaw to talk and chew the misalignment can cause the bones to grind together and the soft tissues of the joint to become inflamed. 
  • Excessive chewing. Chewing constantly or eating particularly chewy foods frequently can cause stress on the TMJ that can result in a disorder. 
  • Misaligned teeth or bite. When the upper and lower teeth do not meet together properly it can cause strain or misalignment of the TMJ. 
  • Arthritis. Arthritis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the joints, which can also affect the TMJ. 

How Do I Know if TMJ is the Cause of My Headaches?

If you are experiencing frequent headaches, there is a possibility that they are related to TMJ disorder. Headaches that result from TMJ disorder tend to occur in the temple region of the head where the TMJ is located. If your headaches mostly occur in the morning and are accompanied by jaw pain, there is a good possibility that both are the result of teeth grinding while you sleep.  

Headaches that occur in the back of the neck or the base of the head may also be caused by TMJ disorder. The muscles that control the movement of your jaw wrap around the sides and back of your neck. If these muscles are inflamed or tight, it can cause a tension headache. 

If your headaches are also accompanied by any other symptoms of TMJ disorder, you can probably assume that they are related. The only way to know for sure is to talk to your dentist about your symptoms and receive a formal diagnosis. If the source of the problem doesn’t seem to be your jaw, you may need to see your primary care physician for further diagnosis of your headaches. 

Have Headaches? Talk To the Dental Wellness Team

When it comes to unexplained headaches, talking to your dentist is often a good place to start. The Dental Wellness Team provides diagnosis and treatment for TMJ disorder, along with our comprehensive dental services. We can assess your symptoms and evaluate the condition of your TMJ to determine whether or not it could be the cause of your headaches.

Call (954) 796-3355 or contact us today to learn more and schedule an appointment.