Although a headache is an annoying discomfort, it is easily relieved by a general over the counter pain relief tablet and often forgotten with little thought as to its cause.
Many people dismiss a headache as strained neck or shoulder muscles from a bad night’s sleep, working at a computer for too long without a break or a sport injury.
In many instances this may be true, but very few people with recurring headaches, neck or shoulder pain would think their teeth or jaw might be the underlying cause of their pain.
One of the most complex, flexible and utilized joints in your body is your jaw joint, otherwise known as your Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ). This ball and socket joint, located just in front of your ears connects your jaw to your skull and is what enables you to move your jaw freely so you can talk, chew, swallow and laugh. When your jaw and teeth are out of their correct alignment a range of problems can occur including:
- Grinding of teeth (bruxism)
- Pain in and around the jaw joints especially after sleep
- Ear aches with no sign of infection or a ringing in the ears
- Numbness in the fingers and arms
- Restricted jaw movement
- Clicking or popping sounds in the jaw joints
- Jaw locking- open or closed
- Pain behind the eyes
- Difficulty swallowing
- Facial, neck, shoulder or back pain
- Unexplained loosening of the teeth
- Worn tooth surfaces
- Broken or chipped teeth
TMJ problems often develop over time and therefore treatment to correct TMJ problems, which takes a conservative approach, may also be ongoing for some time.
Your treatment plan may incorporate one or several of the following methods:
- Bite plate – A custom designed acrylic splint used to reduce the pressure placed on the jaw and teeth. Usually worn at night when your bite force is greater than when you are awake. Bite plates need to be adjusted regularly and monitored as your bite and jaw position changes during your treatment
- Cold or warm packs – A cold or warm compress placed over the tender areas of your jaw muscles can assist with muscle relaxation and bring relief
- Diet – Change your diet to include soft foods and cut food into smaller pieces to reduce the strain required to chew. Avoid hard, chewy, sticky foods and chewing gum as they can place additional strain on jaw muscles
- Stress management – Effective relaxation therapy techniques can reduce strain caused from clenching jaw muscles during times of stress or when doing strenuous physical labor or sport
If you suffer from any of the above conditions, talk to the team at Forum Dentistry today. Patients who undergo treatment for a TMJ dysfunction experience many benefits, including decreased or eliminated pain, improved overall health, longer-lasting dental restorations, more restful sleep and a better quality of life.