Temporomandibular Joint Disorder: Are Your Frequent Headaches Caused By A Dental Issue?

Individuals who suffer from frequent headaches often have trouble determining the cause of their repeated discomfort. In fact, there is a dental condition that affects the jaw, teeth, and mouth areas that is often the cause of chronic headaches. This condition is known as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).

What is TMD?

TMD is a condition of the jaw joint that impacts the entire skull and can even affect the neck and shoulders. It is a disorder that makes it so that the jaw does not open and close normally. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including misalignment of the jaw, genetics, traumatic injury, stress, arthritis, and even frequent gum chewing.

The good thing about TMD is that it is usually easily treatable once it is diagnosed. 

Common symptoms

Headache or chronic pain anywhere in the skull or jaw area is a common and particularly uncomfortable symptom of TMD. However, there are many other symptoms that may be experienced by affected patients.

A patient with TMD can also experience pain in the neck. Grinding of the teeth in combination with frequent headaches is a strong indication of TMD. Other possible symptoms include difficulty chewing or talking, occasional locking of the jaw, unusual noises in the ears, fatigue in the jaw or facial muscles, and swelling in the face. 

Treatments for TMD

There are a variety of different treatments for TMD, and the exact treatment that you are prescribed will depend on the unique combination of symptoms you exhibit. Treatment for TMD is usually provided by a dentist. 

The following are the most commonly prescribed treatment options:

Use of a dental splint that prevents grinding

Your dentist might recommend the use of a dental splint or night guard while you are sleeping. This is a device that will prevent you from grinding your teeth. 

Dental work

Dental work including the placement of bridges, crowns, and braces can help correct any alignment issues in the teeth and jaw that are leading to TMD issues. 

Painkillers and/or anti-anxiety medications

The prescription of NSAIDs can help to control any pain that is being caused by TMD. If a patient's TMD is linked to stress, anti-anxiety medicines are sometimes prescribed.

Nerve stimulation

A treatment technique known as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation can relax the muscles of the face and jaw. This can both relieve the jaw and facial muscles and eliminate the irregular jaw movements that cause TMD.


For some patients, surgery may be necessary to treat TMD. The three types of surgery that are used to treat this issue are arthrocentesis, arthroscopy, and open-joint surgery.