For many people, headaches are a daily problem that they simply adapt to without realizing the adverse effects untreated headaches can have on their lives.

Without treatment, chronic headaches can contribute to poor sleep, anxiety, depression, daytime fatigue, and other physical and psychological problems. If you suffer from recurring headaches that have not responded to medication or have confounded medical diagnosis, it may be time to discuss your situation with an experienced neuromuscular dentist.

Headaches, Your Bite and Your Jaw

A recent episode of our YouTube series “The Perfect Smile” focused on headaches and how they often stem from bite problems or jaw misalignment.

Headaches frequently originate in the muscles. A bite condition can shift the jaw into a position that overtaxes the muscles in the region that connects the jaw to the skull. These tired muscles have an effect on other connective components, such as the temporomandibular joints and the trigeminal nerve, which creates symptoms like headaches, as well as pain in the neck, shoulders, and back.

Headaches caused by bite conditions or jaw alignment problems are sometimes described as migraines due to their intensity, and in . When assessed by a neuromuscular dentist with thorough knowledge of the working relationship between your bite structure, jaw position and the underlying muscles, nerves and joints, these headaches may be diagnosed as symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).

Headaches and TMJ

TMJ is actually a group of disorders that can apply to a combination of factors including malocclusions (bite conditions caused by abnormal teeth positioning), jaw alignment problems and bad oral health habits.

Over the past decade, significant research has probed the connection between headaches and TMJ. A 2006 study was one of the first to suggest that many headaches otherwise diagnosed as tension headaches were actually the result of TMJ.

More recent research has shown that TMJ-associated headaches are more common in women than men, and that bruxism (teeth grinding) and other poor oral habits like nail biting can worsen headaches and other TMJ symptoms, particularly in adolescents.

Diagnosing and Treating Headaches

When assessing potential causes of headaches, a neuromuscular dentist analyzes your bite, and the most comfortable resting position for your jaw and jaw muscles.

Individual treatments for TMJ-related headaches vary. Some patients find lasting relief with occasional therapy designed to relax the jaw muscles and allow the jaw to settle into a comfortable, natural resting position. Other patients benefit from custom-made oral appliances that encourage optimal jaw alignment.

When it comes to achieving freedom from recurring headaches, the key is to focus on treating the solution rather than the symptoms. Medications may provide temporary relief, but all too often they simply mask the real problem.

Accomplished Tulsa dentist Dr. Kevin Winters has extensive experience helping patients relieve their headaches and other discomfort linked to TMJ. You don’t have to live with chronic headaches; take the first step toward a new you by calling Winters Dental Excellence today at (918) 528-3330 to schedule your appointment.