Can TMJ disorder prove to be the culprit behind frequent headaches? Here’s the answer

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People consider sleep deprivation, alcohol hangover, and constant stress as possible reasons behind headaches. They often ignore the possibility of other medical conditions triggering the same. Unfortunately, this may lead to a delay in diagnosing TMJ disorders that can be the main reason behind headaches.

Patients who are suffering from temporomandibular joint or TMJ disorder(s) experience pain due to dysfunction in the jaw joint and muscles next to the same that play a crucial role in controlling the hinge. The complex jaw system consists of bones, discs, ligaments, and muscles that help the lower jaw move side-to-side, forward, and backward. Issues with the hinge connecting lower and upper jaw can also restrict the jaw movement. Patients suffering from TMJ often complain of jaw getting stuck or making clicking or popping sounds.

The medical condition is not uncommon. As per data from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, roughly 10 million Americans are affected due to the disorder.

Why does the medical condition cause headache?

When it comes to the list of TMJ syndromes, headache easily makes it in the list of top five. In some cases, patients with TMJ disorder might experience a headache on both sides. It can be a direct or secondary result of the disease.

Case studies also highlight that headache associated with temporomandibular joint relieves with jaw relaxation and worsens, aggravates due to jaw movement. Such aches are also linked with the tenderness of muscles nearby the jaw.

The TMJ’s inflammation and swelling have the potential to reach ligament tissues and muscles in the jaw area. Further, the spasm caused due to tightness and soreness in muscles results in pain around the neck, face, and skull areas. Even joint and muscular stress caused due to asymmetry in the jaw’s alignment can trigger headaches.

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) can worsen migraines and increase their occurrence, resulting in issues with vision and sensation. However, the medical condition cannot directly cause migraines.


Besides headaches, patients may also experience ear pain, unusual sounds, limited jaw movement, soreness, or stiffness of jaw muscles in the morning.

After considering the signs, symptoms, the dentist or physician would first check the patient’s ability to open and close the jaw and examine its movements. In case of pain and tenderness, the professional would place a stethoscope in front of the ear to check if the jaw joint makes grinding, popping, or clicking sound while the patient opens and closes mouth.
Experts may recommend magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) scan, or X-rays to examine various aspects of the joint and soft tissues.

Healthcare experts can diagnose TMJ quickly if other temporomandibular joint disorder features accompany the headache. As such a problem can also indicate other severe conditions, the physician or dentist may opt for further investigation if TMD signs are absent.

TMJ disorder treatment

Occasional pain in chewing muscles and jaw joints may not be a sign of TMD. Depending on the condition, your dentist or physician may recommend the use of oral appliances. They may also prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, and daily exercises as a part of the physical therapy. Patients can also practice self-care techniques like avoiding extreme jaw movements, eating soft foods, and applying ice pack or heat on the affected areas of the joint.

Self-care techniques

Feedback from several patients suggests some simple exercises can help in easing irritation caused due to TMD.

Stretching the jaw joint area can be a good start. Place the tongue tip on the roof of your mouth; let it apply a bit of pressure while opening your mouth as slowly as possible; keep it open for a few seconds and close it. Repeat this for five minutes.

Let your mouth remain in a closed position, and keep the jaw as relaxed as possible. Then, slowly, open the mouth as wide as possible. Keep the mouth in the open position for a few seconds, and let it close slowly. Once settled, look at the right side with your eyes without moving your neck and slowly move the jaw to the left side. Keep the jawbone in the same position for a few seconds and gradually shift back to the center. Repeat the same with eyes looking in the left, and jaw to the right side. Such movement of the jaw along with stretching can help in easing the irritation.
TMD can be a result of too much stress in life. Simple breathing exercises can help in relieving this stress. If you don’t have much time, simply inhale for a five-second count and then slowly exhale. Try it for five minutes and experience the difference.

Additional care

It is advisable to ensure that you do not open your mouth too wide while you brush or floss. Do not apply too much pressure while brushing as teeth enamel might have weakened due to clenching and grinding associated with TMD.

Remember, exercises should not worsen the pain, and if they do so, it is advisable to contact your dentist immediately. If you think you need a professional dentist in Roswell, GA, for treating TMDs, you should consider fixing an appointment at TruCare Dentistry.

FAQs Related to TMJ Disorder

Below are some of the most common questions related to TMJ disorder, have a look:

1.What is the main cause of TMJ?

Some of the most common causes of TMJ disorder can be an injury to the teeth or jaw, misalignment of the teeth or jaw, arthritis, teeth grinding, stress, bad posture, and gum chewing.

2.Does TMJ disorder go away?

Discomfort caused due to minor TMJ will usually go away without any treatment. However, if a person experiences the symptoms as mentioned below, he/she must get an evaluation to avoid any issues in the future:

  • Continuous or repeated pain at the TMJ or in the ears
  • Pain or discomfort while chewing
  • A grinding noise together with discomfort or pain while opening the jaw or at the time of chewing food
  • Limitation of jaw movement
  • Locking of the joint in an open or closed position
  • Constant pain in other parts of the face
3. What will happen if TMJ is not treated?

If not treated on time, TMJ may lead to various other serious health problems. Some of the dangers of untreated TMJ include:

  • Addiction to self-medication to alleviate the pain
  • Addiction to alcohol and drug consumption
  • Sleep disturbance and insomnia due to continuous pain from TMJ together with grinding of teeth
  • Depression can further affect the quality of life, relationships, and performance in various fields
  • Grinding and clenching of teeth can further lead to fractured teeth and worn-down enamel.
  • As the joint is situated directly underneath the ears, an untreated TMJ disorder may cause tinnitus or permanent hearing loss.
4. Is TMJ disorder permanent?

No, TMJ disorder is not permanent. With proper treatment, TMJ pain can be cured permanently. Some of the key ways to treat TMJ disorder permanently include:

  • Custom-made splints
  • Physical therapy
  • Surgery
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation
5. How do you get rid of TMJ fast?

Most of the time, one doesn’t need to seek professional help for TMJ pain as it disappears. With some best practices at home, one can get rid of TMJ pain fast:

  • Use a heating pad to heal joint injury
  • Use an ice pack to lessen swelling and pain
  • Eat Soft Food
  • Use over-the-counter medicines prescribed by the doctor to get temporary relief from pain.
  • Perform simple and smooth jaw exercises
  • Relax facial muscles