Headaches Related to Neuromuscular Dentistry Issues

TMJ Headaches / TMD Headaches

All headaches that are not related to major organic disorders may be amenable to treatment by neuromuscular dentistry. Migraines can frequently be made less severe and less frequent by treating the neuromuscular triggers. Some patients treated by neuromuscular dentistry for migraines may still have aura without pain, or pain intensity may be decreased eliminating or reducing medication required. Some migraines can be eliminated if the trigger is related to the craniomandibular system.

Migraines are usually associated with the trigeminal nervous system. The Trigeminal nerve is a major input into the brain. Approximately 20% of the input to the brain comes from the spinal cord. The other 80% comes from 12 sets of cranial nerves that go directly to the body from the brain. These nerves control taste, smell, sight, vision, muscles of facial expression, eye movements, and proprioception as well as our autonomic nervous system. Seventy percent of the cranial nerve input is from the trigeminal nerve.

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The trigeminal nerve is more that ½ of the total brain input, and vascular/neurogenic migraines are usually trigeminally caused or mediated. Correction of neuromuscular dental component can often eliminate the underlying causes of many migraines.

Headaches are one of the most commonly reported medical complaints. Most people in the world have suffered from one form of headache pain or another multiple times in their lives. One of the most common symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) is a TMD headache. A neuromuscular dentist is specially trained with diagnosis and treatment modalities to alleviate headaches related to neuromuscular dentistry issues.

TMD/TMJ (TM Joint)

The TMJ is the temporomandibular joint, located just in front of the ears on either side of the head. These joints are the hinges upon which your jaw moves when chewing and talking. The TMJ is considered the most complicated joint in the body because it can rotate up and down as well as slide, which is known as translation.

Medical problems relating to the TMJ are known as temporomandibular disorders or TMD. These disorders can affect any part of the neuromuscular system of the jaw and may result in some problems; dentists often call these disorders Costen’s syndrome. Dr Costen was an otolaryngologist who first recognized the problems related to jaw function:

  • Malocclusion
  • Jaw pain
  • Unevenly worn teeth
  • Spasms
  • Clenching
  • Teeth grinding
  • Inability to find bite
  • Ear pain

Many of these problems cause other symptoms, among which headaches are the most common.

Signs and Symptoms

When the jaw is misaligned, it can lead to problems such as:

  • Headaches
  • Tinnitus (ringing of the ears)
  • Jaw pain
  • Neck pain and shoulder pain
  • Clicking jaw
  • Feelings of dizziness or disequilibrium
  • Ear pain (otalgia)
  • Sinus pain or pressure
  • Stuffy ears that feel like water of pressure
  • Eye pain or pain behind the eye (retro-orbital)

Some of the symptoms and issues caused by TMD (temporomandibular disorders) are not associated with a jaw disorder and are therefore left untreated. Because of the complex relationship between the jaw muscles and the nerves of the face that travel nearby, it is important to isolate whether your problems are caused by TMD.

Correction of the jaw and head position can correct postural issues that are often treated by chiropractors, osteopaths and physical therapy or rehabilitation specialists, and physiatrists. The neuromuscular dentist working with these other medical specialists can often make his treatment more effective and long lasting. In fact, the reason these problems continually recur is often a direct result of problems in the jaw position interfering with posture and nasopharyngeal breathing.

Treatment Options

Neuromuscular dentists take a holistic (whole body) approach to treating TMD in order to treat the underlying problems, not just treat the symptoms. The overall goal of neuromuscular dentistry is to return to normal function and physiology of the jaw and associated structures and/or at least to manage the pain and discomfort caused by TMD.  The change in the neural input into the trigeminal nervous system is extremely important in understanding why so many diverse symptoms are often relieved when correcting the jaw disorder.

The treatment is dependent on the specific nature of the disorder and the amount of time the patient has experienced the condition. The neuromuscular dentists will perform a variety of tests help understand the specific nature of each patient’s problems  It is important to understand that this is an orthopedic correction that allows healing and more normal function of the muscular and neurologic systems. This is not about a jaw or tooth problem alone but rather a piece of a complex medical problem. Dentists who use neuromuscular techniques are uniquely qualified to correct and work with both the craniomandibular disorders and the related medical issues.

Treatment is usually started with removable orthotics and definitive changes are only made after successful initial treatment: The use of ultra low frequency TENS allows accurate evaluation of the effect of relaxed muscles on dental orthopedics.

  • TENS unit (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation)
  • EMG electromyography
  • Computerized mandibular scan (CMS or MKG Mandibular Kenesiograph)
  • Realigning the bite (occlusion)
  • Mouth splints or orthotics for orthopedic correction

 Phase Two

Dental reconstruction:

  • Orthodontia
  • Surgery

In most cases, the treatments occur in progression and over a long period of time to try to retrain your jaw and get it back to normal function. The neuromuscular dentist will formulate a comprehensive treatment plan designed especially to meet your specific TMD needs.

Headaches are such a common occurrence you may not think that they relate to other more serious conditions. If you experience frequent headaches in conjunction with any of the other symptoms of TMD, you should consult a neuromuscular dentist to get a proper diagnosis and begin treating the underlying cause of your headaches.

If you suffer from TMJ headaches or TMD headaches, our iHATEheadaches doctors offer TMD/TMJ consultations. Your headaches may be related to neuromuscular dentistry issues and we can help!

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