Could TMD Be Causing Your Headaches?

Headaches are complicated, and it can be hard to track them down to their true causes. If you have regular headaches, you should suspect that TMD could be causing them or triggering them when:

  • Headaches occur or worsen after intense jaw activity
  • You have other TMD symptoms
  • Typical migraine treatments give little or no relief

One reason to suspect that TMD is linked to your headaches is that jaw activity seems to set them off. You might notice that your headache seems to flare up after you talk a lot, laugh a lot, chew hard food, or even yawn wide. However, people are more likely to overlook teeth clenching and grinding or doing hard labor with the upper body as potentially stressing the jaw.

Another way to see if TMD might be responsible for your migraines is to see if you have other TMD symptoms. There are dozens of potential TMD symptoms, but the most common are jaw pain, jaw immobility, and ringing or pain in the ears.

Unfortunately, our understanding of migraines is not as advanced as some areas of medicine. This means that migraine treatment is often done with a guess-and-test method. If you’ve tried a few different migraine treatments and haven’t gotten good results, it might be time to consider that TMD could be to blame for your headaches.

How TMD Could Cause Migraines

person suffering from headaches and migraines

It’s hard to explain the link between TMD and migraines in part because we don’t fully understand what causes migraines. However, there are four good models for why TMD might cause migraines:

  • Headache confusion
  • Pinched or pressured nerves
  • Trigger pain
  • Overloaded trigeminal nerve

One of the simplest explanations for the TMD-Migraine link is that many headaches diagnosed as “migraines” are actually TMD headaches. These headaches are caused by tension and soreness in the jaw and jaw muscles, which stretch up the sides of the head to your temples. It’s not uncommon for people to have misdiagnosed migraines.

However, TMD can legitimately cause migraines by pinching or pressuring nerves in the head or face. Several branches of the trigeminal nerve–the trigger point for migraines–run near, under, or even through the jaw muscles. When these muscles are unbalanced or overworked, they can put pressure on the nerve branches, which triggers the migraine.

On the other hand, you might develop migraines in part because you are experiencing jaw pain or another headache. It’s not uncommon to have one type of headache that then triggers a migraine.

We mentioned above that the trigeminal nerve is the trigger point for migraines. However, this large nerve is also the nerve that carries commands from your brain to your jaw muscles and pain signals back from the jaw muscles to the brain. It’s possible that the excess of signals associated with an unbalanced jaw can overload the trigeminal nerve, which can trigger migraines.

Let Dr. Siegel Help Your Headache

leading dentists badge for Dr. Ken Siegel People with TMD often get poor treatment results from their regular doctor. That’s because doctors often have little or no training in how to deal with the problem. That’s why you should seek out a professional with the training and experience necessary to diagnose and treat your TMD. Dr. Siegel completed the level VII training in TMD and other dental skills at LVI, the worldwide leader in TMD education for dentists.

He will start with a careful examination to see if you have TMD. If he identifies TMD, he might recommend a multi-stage treatment that first eliminates your pain, then stabilizes your jaw. Long-term treatments might involve restorative dentistry to undo the damage done by clenching and grinding.

Dr. Siegel also knows that often the best treatments for TMD-related migraines and headaches are interdisciplinary. He can work with your doctor or team of doctors to get the best results for you. Check out true stories from patients who now enjoy better lives thanks to Dr. Siegel.

Then call