Woman holding her head in pain, suffering from a TMJ migraine

More than 10 million Americans have struggled with Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders at some point in their lives. The primary causes of TMJ-related disorders are usually injuries, arthritis, and erosion of the disc or joint in the jaw. In addition, people who suffer from bruxism (involuntary jaw clenching and tooth grinding) might be more susceptible to TMJ disorders.

So, can TMJ lead to migraines? Yes! People suffering from TMJ disorders tend to experience tension in the jaw. This symptom also spreads to the muscles, particularly the temporalis muscle- which lies on both sides of the skull. This muscle helps you move your lower jawbone and allows you to open and close your mouth. Once the pain gets to this muscle, it transfers from the jaw area to the skull—this is why you might experience TMJ migraines.

Another reason behind TMJ migraines is the trigeminal nerve. The primary function of this nerve is to help in chewing and transmitting facial sensations to your brain. Sufferers of TMJ disorder tend to experience jaw clenching. When this happens, the trigeminal nerve might discharge chemicals that result in inflammation in the brain, causing migraines.

Signs That Your Migraine is from TMJ Disorder

How can you know for sure that your migraine is related to TMJ disorder? Here are some of the tell-tale symptoms associated with temporomandibular joint issues:

  • Jaw stiffness
  • Odd noises, like crackling, popping, or grinding sounds when the jaw moves
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Facial pain and tenderness
  • Tinnitus
  • Trouble chewing
  • Toothaches
  • Fatigue
  • Occasional “locking” of the jaw
  • Pain when yawning or speaking

If you’re experiencing any of the above in addition to regular migraine headaches, speak with your dentist immediately. Seeking proper treatment to relieve or manage your TMJ disorder will help you get relief from the pain and discomfort and will likely resolve your headache issues as well.

Managing TMJ Pain

If the TMJ – and not regular stress or tension – is the cause of your migraine headaches, the next step is to begin treatment of the disorder to manage your symptoms. Depending on the severity of your case, these can either be, easy fixes or may take some time before you can get relief.

Here’s a look at how to manage TMJ pain:

  • Give the jaw a break: Don’t overuse the jaw. Eat soft foods, suck on mints instead of chewing gum and take other measures to minimize stress on the jaw.
  • Take measures to relieve stress and anxiety: It’s natural for many people to tense the jaw when they feel stressed or pressured, and regularly doing this can lead to TMJ disorder. Try stress-relieving activities like yoga or breathing exercises to help with relaxation and minimize potential flare-ups.
  • Massages: Ask your dentist or visit a certified massage therapist. Both can help teach you some simple massages that can relieve pain in the jaw area. They may also suggest using warm compresses or putting ice on the jaw to ease the inflammation. After a bit of education and practice, these techniques are pretty easy to carry out on your own as needed.
  • Over-the-counter medicine: Your doctor might recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Aspirin and Ibuprofen.
  • Dental work/orthodontics: Your dentist may also recommend the use of a nightguard. If your case is severe or difficult to treat, they might even recommend undergoing surgery in extreme cases.

Seeking professional TMJ migraine treatment is the best way to manage the condition effectively. At Kanehl Dental, we perform rigorous tests to discover the root cause of your TMJ condition. We want to help you find some relief. Contact Kanehl Dental to book your free TMJ consultation today.