If your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is misaligned, injured or inflamed it can result in the painful temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). While headaches are far from the only symptoms of TMD, that they have been tagged “TMJ migraines” speaks volumes about their severity.
These headaches so closely mimic migraines that medical doctors often misdiagnose them and recommend treatment for migraine headaches. And when medical treatment fails, too many patients submit to living with the pain, concluding that nothing more can be done.
The good news is that a remedy for your crippling headaches may be available from a skilled neuromuscular dentist. Neuromuscular dentists, such as Dr. Chong Lee and Dr. Joseph Oh of Galleria Dental Aesthetics, voted top dentists in northern Virginia by peers, magazines and consumers, offer this specialized level of care. Be sure to research the qualifications of dentists who promote themselves as neuromuscular dentists as some of the treatments for TMD are not reversible.
The TMD-Headache Connection
When your temporomandibular joints are damaged or misaligned, it creates stress on the jaw joints, cartilage, and muscles. These muscles are intricately linked to muscles in your head, face and neck. Additionally, the myofascial membrane that encases all muscles in a continuous sheath responds to strain by contracting, which in turn can tighten around the muscles of your shoulders, arms and back. Muscles contract when we are stressed, and can cause significant pain when they are unable to relax. The contraction can, in turn, cause more pain and stress resulting in an escalating cycle of stress-pain-stress. Neuromuscular dentistry addresses all of these interactions.
Neuromuscular Treatment of TMJ “Migraines”
Neuromuscular treatment of TMJ migraines is planned to properly align your jaw. To this end your dentist might use any of the following treatments:
• Orthotic appliances to prevent tooth grinding, reposition your jaw, realign your bite, or relax your jaw and facial muscles
• Orthodontics to realign your teeth and your bite
• Dental work to realign your bite, such as fillings, dental crowns, implants or bridges to level dental surfaces
• Medications to relax muscles or reduce inflammation
• Stress management including techniques to improve relaxation
• Jaw exercises and jaw rest
• Thermal therapy using heat to improve circulation and relax muscles or ice to reduce swelling
• Surgery may be an option, but a qualified and experienced neuromuscular dentist will consider this only when other options are not feasible