TMJ Headaches vs Migraines

tmj headaches and migrainesServing Brentwood, Belle Meade and Green Hills Areas of Nashville TN

Do you suffer from migraines? If so, you are not alone. This is a chronic and painful affliction that affects about 30 million individuals in the United States.

Even though migraines have been known and treated for decades, migraines remain a rather mysterious ailment. Medical science still does not have a consensus on what causes migraine headaches, and these migraines often go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. For example, many people who are diagnosed with migraine headaches actually suffer from headaches caused by a different problem, temporomandibular joint disorder—or TMJ, for short. TMJ refers to any dysfunction that occurs in your temporomandibular joint, which connects your jaw to your skull.

What happens during a migraine?

If you suffer from migraine headaches, then your brain chemistry changes while a migraine is happening. During a migraine, your serotonin levels experience a significant drop, while your trigeminal nerve releases signaling compounds that travel to the outer covering of your brain, where they trigger impulses of pain.

The trigeminal nerve plays a crucial role in migraines or any other type of tension headache. MRIs and other diagnostic tools have shown that the trigeminal nerve is stimulated during a migraine headache or any type of tension headache. TMJ aggravates the trigeminal nerve because the temporomandibular joint itself is located very close to the trigeminal nerve. No other neural pathway in your body—not even the spinal cord—transmits more sensory input to your brain. The trigeminal nerve becomes impacted by a case of TMJ because the dysfunction in the jaw joint spreads to the jaws themselves, and then goes on to affect the surrounding muscles, nerves, and blood vessels.

How are TMJ headaches misdiagnosed as headaches?

TMJ headaches and migraines share many of the same symptoms, such as:

  • Pain, which can be measured anywhere from a range of acute to severe, or be described as throbbing
  • Feeling light-headed or dizzy
  • Sensitivity to light and/or sound
  • Nausea or even vomiting
  • Distorted vision

If you have TMJ headaches, then your headaches will not have the desired response to normal migraine medications and treatments. These treatments will only manage the intensity of the headache symptoms, but do nothing to reduce how often they occur. Have you been living with migraines for an extended period of time (at least longer than a year) and struggled to find relief from normal migraine treatments? If so, TMJ could be the real culprit behind your headaches.

Because it can be difficult to differentiate TMJ headaches from migraines, it is important to seek the care of a neuromuscular dentist on this matter. Neuromuscular dentist Dr. Brian Devine, DDS, has a particular set of skills that make him an ideal medical professional to identify a case of TMJ. Neuromuscular dentistry focuses on the alignment of your bite and jaw, and any practitioner of neuromuscular dentistry undergoes extensive post-graduate education that goes far beyond what is taught during normal dental school.

At Devine Dentistry, Dr. Devine has studied at the Las Vegas Institute, which is considered the finest post-graduate institution for training in neuromuscular dentistry. He can detect if you have a case of TMJ and treat any subsequent issues stemming from the disorder—such as painful headaches of migraine-like intensity.

Learn more about how TMJ can cause headaches. If you think you have headaches being caused by TMJ, or you have been battling migraines for quite some time without finding lasting relief, then call the office of Devine Dentistry today at (615) 269-4209 to schedule a consultation.

Devine Dentistry is proud to provide total oral care for patients in the middle Tennessee communities of Belle Meade, Green Hills, and Nashville.