Frequent Morning Headaches? Jaw Pain & Popping?
Most people guess that jaw pain is a dental issue. And they’re right. But people are usually surprised to hear that waking up with headaches or sore face muscles can be a dental problem too! If this describes your pain, you may suffer from TMJ or TMD related issues. (Read more from Mayo Clinic.)
Headaches and facial pain are often caused by jaw joint problems. The jaw joint, called the Temporomandibular Joint or TMJ, is one of the most complex and most used joints in the body. If you suffer from jaw pain, facial pain, or morning headaches, you most likely have something going on inside your jaw joint. Our office can diagnose facial pain and provide specific relief for your TMJ/TMD related pain.
Dentists Fix Headaches and Jaw Problems?
But…you may be asking yourself: Dentists fix teeth, right?
What can a dentist do for a problem INSIDE my jaw joint?
How can a dentist fix my headache?
We hear these questions all the time. Patients with jaw joint pain almost always end up in my chair AFTER they’ve already seen a ton of doctors for headaches and pain. They’ve usually spent a lot of money, tried a lot of drugs, and still can’t find any relief. Some patients are even told that the pain is “all in their head.” This isn’t because doctors are incompetent. This happens because most doctors are not trained in jaw health or jaw pain relief.
The truth is that not all dentists are either. I was fortunate that my mentor in dental school was a specialist in TMJ treatment. He gave me a strong foundation in jaw health and treating patients with jaw and facial pain. After dental school, I took a number of extra courses in jaw health, treating TMD (TMJ Disorders), headaches, and bite analysis. Because of my training, I can help you find relief from TMJ and its related issues.
But whether you decide to come see me or not, make sure that the professional you seek help from has training and experience treating jaw pain and TMJ conditions. The jaw joint is complex and sensitive to movements as small a fraction of a millimeter. So, treating it effectively requires knowledge and skill beyond dental school.
Have you been told that the problem is “all in your head”? Well, we say, “The Solution Is In Your Mouth!”
Technically, the jaw joint IS in your head. But the pain is real and not psychological. Most jaw problems involve the facial muscles and the shock absorbing disc inside the jaw joint. The solution for most jaw problems involves relieving the stress and pressure put on the joint so that muscles can relax. This allows the disc to repair and re-position itself.
What puts pressure on the jaw joint? The jaws. So most solutions involve a detailed bite analysis and a series of customized bite splints designed to relieve jaw stress and tension in the facial muscles.
Nightguards Don’t Work for You?
Lots of people come in with TMJ issues and they’ve already had a bad nightguard experience. If you’ve tried a nightguard and it didn’t do anything for your headaches, you’re probably doubtful that anything like a nightguard could help. If you’re one of these folks, hang on to your hats and glasses!
Nightguards and the custom bite splints we use for TMJ treatment and headaches look a lot alike. They’re both made from plastic, and they both fit over the teeth. But the similarities stop there.
While many nightguards are thin or even soft plastic, our bite splints are made from a special, extra durable acrylic that can be polished smooth. A smooth surface is key to helping muscles relax and reducing the pressure on the jaw joint.
Bite splints are also customized to each person’s bite. This customization is a multi-visit adjustment process that continues until the jaw joint is stable and muscles are relaxed. At each adjustment visit, the splint surface is checked and modified to make sure that all the teeth have exactly the right amount of contact with the splint. This balancing is key to relieving headaches. It insures that no muscles are building up the stress and tension that causes TMD related headaches.
The special design of bite splints means that they protect both the teeth and the jaw joint. Sometimes people are hesitant to try bite splint therapy for headaches if they’ve already had a nightguard that didn’t help. This skepticism is completely understandable. Bite splint therapy is so unique in medicine; it’s something most people have to experience for themselves in order to believe that relief from facial pain or jaw pain is possible.