Migraines are severe painful headaches that often render the sufferer sensitive to sounds, light and/or smell as well as causing a throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head. People who experience migraines are often incapacitated by them and can still feel unwell for a day or so after the migraine has passed.
There are many causes of migraines, however not many people are aware that a common dental condition called temperomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, can sometimes be the cause of them. If the doctor has ruled out common medical reasons as the cause of your migraines, it might be worth speaking to your dentist about them instead.
The TMJ is the joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull and is responsible for your ability to talk, eat and yawn. This joint undergoes a lot of movement and pressure so it is understandable that problems can arise with it. The TMJ can easily become inflamed, stressed or misaligned resulting in tenderness and pain in the area. Other signs of a TMJ disorder include difficulty chewing food or speaking without pain.
When a TMJ disorder arises, this affects the nearby supporting muscles, causing them to become tense. For instance, if the TMJ is misaligned causing an improper bite (upper and lower teeth not meeting when the mouth is closed), the jaw attempts to correct it, straining the surrounding muscles in the jaw and cheeks.
This tension can spread to nearby areas of the body such as the neck, shoulders, ears or head. If the tension radiates to the head it can cause a migraine. A TMJ disorder can also result in teeth grinding, a condition which also causes headaches, particularly when waking up in the morning.
If your dentist thinks that you may have a disorder of the TMJ then this could be the cause of your migraines. Treating the underlying cause of the TMJ problem could prevent these migraines from occurring. For misaligned bites, an oral appliance can be worn to reduce pressure on the joint or orthodontic treatment such as braces can provide a permanent solution by moving teeth to correct the under or overbite.
Pressure on the TMJ can also be minimised by avoiding chewing gum and foods that require a lot of chewing or are particularly difficult to eat. Gently massaging the jaw muscles can also help relieve the pressure surrounding the joint.