Headaches are just one of a number of symptoms of TMD, or temporomandibular joint disorder, that affect the joint of your jaw. A neuromuscular dentist is specially trained to treat TMD and get your jaw back into its optimal working condition through a series of treatments. In doing so, the dentist can relieve most, if not all, of the symptoms related to TMD, including headaches.
Types of Headaches
There are several types of headaches that have shown good response to neuromuscular treatment:
- Migraine – TMD and migraine headaches are closely linked through the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for jaw and tooth functions. Treating TMD frequently helps with migraine headaches by relieving the triggers that set them off. Even hormonal and chemically induced migraines can be reduced by tuning down the nervous system activity
- Sinus – The trigeminal nerve also affects the reaction of the lining of the sinuses, TM Joint disorders may cause the sinuses to be hypersensitive to allergens. Relief of TMD can reduce or eliminate the frequency and severity of chronic sinus headaches. The trigeminal nervous system, when over-activated, can lead to sinus pain that results in increased fluid and can set the patient up for infections that are a result of the problem not the cause
- Frontal, temporal, or occipital – Again, the trigeminal nerve plays a major part in all the functions and stimuli of your facial features. Many headaches of varying degrees and locations are relieved during treatment of TMD. The trigeminal nerve anastomosis with the facial nerves and occipital nerves and pain can often be widespread but still partially related to jaw function
There are varying degrees of success for relieving symptoms with neuromuscular dentistry techniques. Success can seem to come on quickly and seem miraculous while in other patients there is a gradual slow improvement. This is due to the large number of factors involved in symptoms
Establish a Baseline
To begin, the neuromuscular dentist measures your jaw functions and then relaxes the jaw musculature utilizing Ultra Low Frequency TENS (different than TENS utilize by most dentists). As the muscles to relax the optimal position for your jaw is determined utilizing sophisticated measuring tools. Recording and using these measurements is what differentiates the neuromuscular dentist and their treatment.
The neuromuscular dentist puts together a treatment plan to correct the bite and realign the jaw into its optimal position. The Use of TENS, EMG, CMS, or MKG is an essential element of both diagnosis and treatment.
- Relieve pain and spasm – The first order of business is to alleviate any pain or muscle spasms associated with your TMD. Using an ultra-low frequency electrical stimulator, or TENS unit, the muscles of your jaw are gently massaged increasing blood flow and stimulating endorphins. There are other special ant-dromic effects of TENS use.
- Stabilizing the bite – After addressing the primary muscle pain, the dentist will usually create an orthotic (orthopedic) device or mouth splint to help realign your jaw to a physiologic position that maintains relaxed muscles and health joints and posture. This device fits comfortably over your teeth, realigning your bite. Ideally the orthotic is both comfortable and becomes unobtrusive creating jaw corrections that allow speaking, eating and swallowing in a more relaxed manner for the patients. Many patients become so accustomed to their orthotics that they miss having them out of their mouths even momentarily.
- Long-term plan – Once your TMD is temporarily relieved by the preceding steps, the dentist will determine what other options are necessary to permanently improve your bite. The orthotic is then used to determine any long term change of the jaw position. There are many options available for long term therapy. It is important that the treatment orthotic substantially relieves or eliminates the symptoms prior to considering long term stabilization with options that may include surgery, orthodontia, equilibration or dental reconstruction.
Neuromuscular dentists will often use nerve blocks and/or trigger point injections to decrease pain and speed up the process; the use of Prolotherapy or Proliferation therapy is an effective technique for strengthening ligaments and tendons and quickly reducing symptoms of muscle pain or tendonitis. Diagnostic blocks can also be used to help eliminate causes suspected for causing referred pain.
Autonomic blocks such as the SPG block can help treat sympathetic and parasympathetic components of pain and be used as a migraine preventer. The SPG block can be done intra-nasally without injection but by using a cotton swab. This is frequently an important aspect of recovery in long-term chronic pain.
Pursuing Your Optimal Outcome
The ultimate goal of neuromuscular dentistry in treating TMD, and headache and associated disorders is to give the patient relaxed healthy muscles of the jaw, head and neck as well as related structures. These muscles must return to their healthy state after normal function or use.
Correcting the bite so it is in its optimal position will allow the muscles to return to their healthy states reducing the stresses placed on your body because of chronic misalignment and adaptation. Some of the other symptoms associated with TMJ disorders include:
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)
- Jaw pain often described as joint pain or pain in front of the ear
- Locking, Popping, or clicking of the jaw-joint
- Muscle pain or facial pain often felt in the cheeks or in the bone
- Chronic tooth pain, aching or sensitivity without obvious causes.
If you suffer from frequent headaches along with other symptoms associated with TMD, please consult neuromuscular dentist Dr. Ira L. Shapira to learn how treatment options may help with your symptoms and improve the quality of your life. Call Think Better Life at 1-800-865-6468 to schedule your comprehensive evaluation.