tmj headaches vs migraines

tmj headaches vs migrainesServing Choto, Northshore, and surrounding areas of Knoxville, TN

Migraine headaches affect more than 1 billion people worldwide. Despite the prevalence of this malady and decades of medical treatment and research, there is still no consensus in medical science regarding what causes a migraine headache to occur.

Because the causes of migraine headaches remain shrouded in relative mystery, certain other types of headaches can be misdiagnosed as migraines. For example, many people who think they have migraines—and even may have been prescribed medication for them—suffer from tension headaches, stemming from a case of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or TMD), an oral health issue that occurs when the temporomandibular joint enters a state of dysfunction.

This page will explain the similarities and differences between TMJ headaches and migraines. This is a complicated topic that many people have a better understanding of after a face-to-face meeting with a medical professional like a neuromuscular dentist in Choto, who possesses special training to diagnose and treat a case of TMJ.

The similarities between TMJ headaches and migraines

TMJ headaches and migraine headaches are just different types of tension headaches. Both maladies occur because the trigeminal nerve, which is in proximity to the jaw joints, becomes aggravated in some way. The trigeminal nerve triggers impulses of pain because it is a key component in the nervous system, carrying more sensory input to the brain than any other neural pathway in your body.

A migraine sufferer experiences a change in brain chemistry each time he or she undergoes an attack. Specifically, serotonin levels decrease, while the trigeminal nerve transmits signaling compounds that travel to the outer covering of the brain, where impulses of pain are prompted.

TMJ headaches also aggravate the trigeminal nerve. This is because the temporomandibular joint, which connects the jaw joints to your skull, is located in proximity to the trigeminal nerve. When the temporomandibular joint enters a state of dysfunction, that dysfunction begins to impact the nearby bones, musculature, and nerves—including the trigeminal nerve. Specifically, a patient with TMJ experiences a compression of blood vessels, which places undue pressure on the adjacent nerves such as the trigeminal nerve.

Many symptoms are present in both TMJ headaches and migraine headaches, including:

  • Pain, which can be severe or even debilitating, impeding your ability to function
  • Feelings of dizziness or light-headedness
  • Enhanced sensitivity to light and/or sound
  • Nausea and/or vomiting

The differences between TMJ headaches and migraines

Certain symptoms can be used to distinguish TMJ headaches from migraines. For example, migraine sufferers often experience an aura—a visual hallucination that precedes the onset of an attack.

TMJ headaches also cannot be treated the same way as migraines. For example, a patient with TMJ headaches will not respond as well to even the strongest or most tried-and-true medications for migraines. These medications only will manage the severity of the headaches when they occur; for a patient with TMJ headaches, migraine medication will do nothing to change the frequency with which the headaches occur.

The importance of seeking treatment

According to the Migraine Research Foundation, the vast majority of migraine sufferers never seek medical care for their problem. Similarly, many individuals who suffer from TMJ also never have their problem diagnosed or treated properly. However, whether your headaches are migraines or are caused by a case of TMJ, neither malady will just go away on its own. You must receive professional diagnosis and treatment.

For TMJ sufferers, seeking the care of a neuromuscular dentist is your best bet. If you have been diagnosed with TMJ and are suffering headaches as a result, or you have been living with painful headaches that do not respond well to normal headache remedies, then call the office of Choto Family Dentistry today at (865) 409-5077 to schedule a consultation.

Choto Family Dentistry is proud to now serve clients in the areas of Choto, Northshore, and Knoxville in East Tennessee.