Do you suffer from chronic headaches?
Relief may come where you’d least expect it — your local dentist. Each year 1 in 27 Americans will deal with the pain and symptoms associated with temporomandibular joint disorders, also known as TMJ Disorders. This small joint is located in front of the ear, where the skull and the jaw meet. It’s used for chewing, talking, yawning and swallowing, making it very active.
When a person’s bite is out of alignment, TMJ disorders can occur. These can be painful and difficult to diagnose. If you’re tired of chronic headaches or jaw pain, now is a good time to discuss the symptoms with your First Choice dentist, as well as strategies that may offer relief.
Common Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
- Popping, clicking or locking of jaw
- Recurring headaches and/or migraines
- Ear aches and ringing in the ear
- Facial, neck and jaw pain
- Sleep-related issues
Common Triggers of TMJ Disorders and Related Pain
- Stress/clenching (80% of TMJ symptoms are related to stress)
- Developmental abnormalities/hereditary
- Trauma (like whiplash from an accident or fall)
- Airway obstruction/mouth breathing (due to adenoids or tonsil growth)
- Bad bite alignment (caused by previous poor orthodontic or restorative treatment)
Individuals may often seek treatment for headaches, ear issues and similar ailments without realizing that the symptoms are caused by problems with their TMJ and bite. Many patients deal with symptoms for years before receiving proper diagnosis and treatment for their TMJ. Unfortunately, these treatments sometimes include unnecessary pharmaceutical prescriptions or incredibly involved headache or sleep-related therapies.
Many people don’t realize that their dentist can be an important part of their medical team in diagnosing and treating TMJ disorders.
Dr. Brian Fick, a dentist at First Choice Dental says, “Because we see most of our patients twice a year, we are able to discuss and identify symptoms associated with TMJ disorders.” A dentist like Fick, who is specially trained in treating TMJ disorders, can often offer less invasive treatment and non-pharmaceutical options — including therapeutic treatments, customized orthotic devices or even braces. Fick adds, “A dentist can help prevent and treat chronic pain or sleep related symptoms of TMJ disorders with affordable and effective treatment options tailored to the specific patient.”
Although TMJ disorders can occur in both men and women at any age, they’re more common in women ages 20–40 years.
Fick says, “If you have any of the symptoms, it’s worth having a discussion with your dentist to evaluate whether or not you have a TMJ disorder. If you do, by correcting your bite and achieving optimal jaw position, you can find relief from headaches or other troubling symptoms.”
Diagnosing and Treating TMJ Disorders
When evaluating a patient for possible TMJ Disorders, Dr. Fick uses special 3D imaging technology to give a thorough view of the area around the joint. He then uses low frequency “tensing” (low current, like electric massage) to relax the jaw muscle. This flushes the lactic acid from the muscle and gives muscle slack to help “reboot” the muscle.
The goal of this process is to find a new bite – a new place in space to place the patient’s jaw that will relieve symptoms. Tensing can help identify that sweet spot for neutral/proper jaw position. Once that position is known, Dr. Fick and his team can create an orthotic device for the patient to help maintain the jaw’s healthy position and relieve symptoms.
Other possible treatments in some cases may include restorative dental treatment. Another word of advice we like to share is that a well-made supportive pillow can be part of a successful treatment plan. These types of pillows support and align the neck and spine so muscles can relax, instead of tensing up, while you’re sleeping — helping relieve headaches and tension associated with TMJ.
If you’re experiencing chronic headaches or jaw pain, we’re here to help. Feel free to contact First Choice Dental’s downtown Madison location to set up a free consultation with Dr. Fick. In addition to discussing TMJ disorders, he’ll also perform a full exam of your mouth, including X-rays at no charge.
Thank you for visiting First Choice Dental!