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Headaches: Is TMJ disorder the cause?


Fotolia_29563171_XS-300x200For some people, headaches are more than a minor inconvenience. Those with frequent headaches can suffer with diminished productivity, impaired cognitive abilities, and depressed mood. In some cases, dietary changes and increasing water intake can alleviate discomfort and lessen the frequency of headaches; however, some patients may be suffering from headaches caused by TMJ disorder. This common oral health condition involves the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) becoming strained and stressed by an improper bite, misaligned or improperly developed jaws, or bruxism (the habit of clenching and grinding the teeth). Fortunately, there is treatment for TMJ disorder that will help improve patients’ comfort and oral function.

What is TMJ disorder?

TMJ disorder is an oral health condition where the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunctions. The TMJ is a joint that facilitates mouth movement with the help of facial muscles and ligaments. Located just underneath the earlobes on either side of the jaw, every patient has two TMJs. These joints connect the lower mandible (jaw) to the skull. When strained or stressed by malocclusions or developmental abnormalities, the TMJ and its surrounding supportive tissues are unable to open and close the mouth smoothly. This can cause a patient to suffer with impaired oral function and unpleasant symptoms such as facial pain and frequent headaches.

What causes TMJ dysfunction?

Many things can cause TMJ dysfunction. Common contributors to this condition include a misaligned bite, tooth wear, and misaligned jawbones. Patients with underdeveloped and overdeveloped jaws may also experience TMJ disorder.

What are signs of TMJ disorder?

Symptoms of TMJ disorder vary. Some patients may experience popping sounds when they open or close their mouths while others may be unable to open or close their mouth for short amounts of time. Stress can exacerbate symptoms since many people clench and grind their teeth when under duress. Other common symptoms include facial tenderness and headaches.

What can be done about this condition?

Treating TMJ dysfunction depends on the underlying cause of a strained temporomandibular joint. Some patients benefit from orthodontic care and restorative dentistry. Others may require oral surgery to correct abnormalities and misalignments of the jawbones.

For more information, contact our skilled team of oral surgeons at Austin Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery to schedule an appointment.