Headaches are one of the most common symptoms of a TMJ (temporomandibular joint) problem. Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, and the TMJ headache is a tension type of headache. It is often described as a feeling of wearing a hat two sizes too small, with pain in a ring around the head, or as a migraine headache.
There are a few TMJ-related causes for tension headaches. Constant contraction of muscle fibers within a muscle creates tension, pressure or a tight feeling in the face and head. Constant tight muscle fibers prevent or reduce blood flow to that area. The body sends more blood to the areas and this can result an increase in general blood pressure to the muscles and head, sometimes referred to as vascular headaches. Clenching and grinding the teeth, which are both TMJ symptoms, produce pain from the muscles in the head, resulting in a headache.
Unfortunately, these headaches can be so frequent or severe that they are frequently misdiagnosed and treated as migraine headaches. We've seen patients who've suffered for months or even years without realizing that a properly trained dentist could alleviate their headache pain.
In many cases, only headache therapy provided by your neuromuscular dentist ensures the muscles are happy because they do not have to work hard positioning the teeth to a strained bite.
By putting the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) back into alignment and placing the jaw into its optimal position, your neuromuscular dentist can alleviate most headache problems related to TMJ, muscle, nerve and joint disorders. Neuromuscular dentistry helps align the jaw and bite and can help alleviate severe headaches-including migraines, neck and shoulder pain, clicking or popping of the jaw and even tinnitus or ringing in the ears.
At First Choice Dental, Dr. Gary Conger utilizes special advanced technology and techniques to determine if the jaw and bite are in alignment. If they are not, he will bring the jaw back into alignment.
"Headache therapy and neuromuscular dentistry use state-of-the-art technology to alleviate headache pain. With proper headache therapy, you can be free of pain and enjoy your life again," says Dr. Conger.
Three Steps Involved in Headache Therapy
Conger says that headache therapy will typically follow three steps.
Relieve muscle spasm and pain. The immediate concern for neuromuscular dentists is to provide relief of your symptoms. We use a technology called ULF-TENS to help with pain relief by stimulating the body's production of endorphins, the body's natural anesthetic.
Stabilize the bite. Often, a temporary device, known as an orthotic, is worn over the teeth, which allows us to make easy adjustments to the plastic without adjusting the teeth until the bite is stabilized. Once symptoms are relieved and the bite has been stabilized, your headache therapy dentist will move on to the next step and permanently adjust your bite to the correct position.
Long-term management. Once the first two steps above have been achieved, your neuromuscular dentist, or headache therapy dentist, will likely take one a few possible paths for long-term treatment. These possible treatment paths could include smoothing and reshaping the enamel of the teeth to correct the bite (called Coronoplasty), or reconstruction or orthodontics in more severe cases where extensive long-term treatment is needed.
Learn more about TMJ/Headache Therapy at First Choice Dental to determine if this may help you achieve relief from TMJ or headache pain. Or see our complete list of locations to schedule your consultation appointment today with one of our dental care professionals at one of our family dental centers in Madison and surrounding areas.