- What causes TMJ pain and headaches?
- How do I make the pain stop and stay gone?
- Why doesn’t my splint work?
Living with headaches and TMJ pain is not a way to live. The morning and afternoon throbbing. The pain and itch behind the eyes. The sore teeth and cheek biting. The stiff, sore neck. The days when everything hurts so badly you just want to sleep and hope you feel better when you wake up. Sucks to feel this way doesn’t it? I am not talking about what you’re feeling. I’m talking about myself. I suffered from all the symptoms of TMJ headaches, migraines, tension headaches, or any other name you want to call them. It’s what lead me to study what TMJ dysfunction (the technical name) is and how to treat it, for myself as much as my patients. What I found is that if you get ten dentists who specialize in TMJ dysfunction in a room you will get ten arguments as to the best way to treat it. And if you add in neurologist, chiropractors, and any other specialty you will get even more different opinions and arguments. I wasn’t looking for arguments. I was looking for answers to my own headache problems as well as my patients. And listening to all the different views I realized there is always more to treating TMJ problems than just making a dental splint. I have made hundreds of splints in my career. Some work and the patients get relief. And some splints don’t work at all. And usually when the splint did work my patient only had relief if they continually wear the splint. So the splint was not treating the TMJ dysfunction. It was just masking the symptoms.
So for myself and most of my patients I had to look further than just a splint. Here are some of the most common problems I see in my patients that contribute to their headaches.
- “Bad bite” A bad bite usually involves two groups of teeth, molars and canines. Your molars are the large teeth in the back. The canines are the third teeth from the middle of your smile. When you chew side to side, not just bite down, your lower canines should bump into your upper canines and slide along them without your other teeth touching. Your molars should not touch at all during this time. If the molars touch it causes the muscles on the side of your face to heavily contract over and over all day. This causes sore teeth, worn teeth, crowns to pop off, and teeth to break. Ever have a crown that just never feels right? You’re probably bumping into it when you’re chewing, not when just close your teeth together. The only way to see if your molars are hitting when they shouldn’t be is with a Tekscan system.https://www.tekscan.com/dental The marking paper alone won’t show it. The Tekscan system tells us precisely where the teeth are hitting and when in the chewing cycle. Now we know where to adjust the bite to reduce muscle tension. This is a long video but it explains how adjusting the bite using computer guidance called DTR can instantly solve your headache problem if it is only bite related. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0xkJNF0l_E
- Poor sleep If you don’t get sound restful sleep each night you may have sleep apnea. 90% of my sleep apnea patients also clench and grind their teeth. They report pain in their teeth, facial muscles, and neck muscles when they wake up and throughout the day. Their clenching and grinding has also usually caused them to have a bad bite. Many of my TMJ patients that have had their bite adjusted with the Tekscan and sometimes also splint therapy still report morning headaches. Most claim they sleep just fine. But when we test them with a home sleep study system they almost always have sleep apnea. At this point we make them a different type of splint that holds their jaw forward while they are sleeping. This controls their sleep apnea instead of a CPAP. I work with several sleep apnea appliances. My favorite is the Narval to treat sleep apnea.http://www.resmed.com/us/en/consumer/products/dental/narval.htmlMost of my sleep apnea patients only need a Narval appliance at night and their headaches decrease as their sleep quality improves.
- Stress and Anxiety Pretty much all of my patients along with most people have a lot of stress in their lives. My patients tell me they carry their stress in their neck and shoulders. This causes their neck muscles to contract all day and night. You cannot lift your shoulders without eventually contracting your teeth. When the muscles that contract your teeth stay tight long enough they will cramp and develop trigger points. This is causing or at least adding to your headaches. Learning to breathe properly and getting your anxiety under control can be the key to controlling your headaches if nothing else is working. Here is another post I wrote about stress and breathing.https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/stress-sore-neck-because-i-am-breathing-right-maybe-dr-tony-soileau?trk=mp-reader-card
- Muscle and skeletal imbalance We all know that every muscle in the body is connected at some point to the other muscles. Sometimes we don’t realize that a damaged muscle at one end of the body is causing a negative effect on a muscle at the other end of the body. The most common muscles to cause headaches are the face, neck, and back muscles. When these muscles stay tight they cause the head to be rotated slightly backwards. This in turn causes the muscles in the front of the neck and chest to stay contracted to pull the head forward. This imbalance causes the muscles to be fatigued and cramp causing both pain in the muscle and referred pain to the muscles of your face and neck. For this reason we have all our TMJ and sleep apnea patients screened by our in house massage therapist Candid Mouton. Many times she can correct a problem simply by stretching the muscles and rubbing out any trigger points. The alignment of your spinal cord can also cause headaches. If vertebrae C6 is out of alignment it usually causes headaches. For spinal cord issues with our TMJ patients we work closely with Dr. Brad Grizzaffi’s chiropractic office in Lafayette La, (337) 237-2273. I can adjust your bite. Candid can relax your muscles. But if you also have back and hip issues these must be corrected also for complete headache relief. Otherwise the splint and bite adjustment will help, but not solve the problem. Here are other of my posts on this topic. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140930133108-92475228-a-facial-or-massage-to-fix-a-sore-tooth?trk=mp-reader-card
- Sinuses While sinus problems are not directly related to TMJ dysfunction they do need to be considered. Sinus headaches can be just as bad and are often confused with tension headaches. It is important to know which one we are dealing with. Chronic sinus issues can also affect the quality of your sleep causing you to clench and grind your teeth. For both our TMJ and sleep apnea patients I work closely with Dr. Philip Noel in Lafayette La, (337) 991-0010. Dr. Noel is an ENT and sleep physician. Dr. Noel helps our patient with sinus issues and also treat their sleep apnea problems
- Diet and medications Anything you eat or drink including medications can have both a positive and negative effect on the body. The problem I am often faced with is a patient taking a tremendous amount of medications from multiple doctors. Most of my patients want to feel better without all these medications. As a dentist it’s not really my role to get them off their meds. Also most patients are not getting the right nutrients in their diet to support their body. We work with Dr. Kelly Cobb in Lafayette La, (337) 266-9985. Dr. Cobb is an internist that helps patients sort through all their medications and test for what our patients are lacking to feel healthyThe successful treatment of TMJ dysfunction to alleviate the headaches and pain sometimes takes more than just one type medical or dental therapy. Does every patient I see have to visit all these different doctors? Of course not! Most cases are simple. A few bite adjustments and a massage from Candid to relieve the trigger point is usually all it takes to make the headaches go away. And some cases are more difficult. It’s like pealing an onion. You just keep pealing back the layers until you find the true source of the problem. You don’t have to live with pain.
For more information about TMJ or other health problems you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me here on LinkedIn.
I get a lot of emails every day from people with questions and I really do try to answer all of them.
And of course you can call us. Our office number is 337 234 3551.
Dr Tony Soileau