Many people are unaware that jaw misalignment can also lead to headaches. Here we will explore the relationship between jaw misalignment and headaches by examining the potential causes, symptoms, and possible treatment options for individuals experiencing this condition.
Let’s get into it!
What Is Jaw Misalignment?
Jaw misalignment, also known as malocclusion which is closely related to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, is a condition that affects the proper alignment and functioning of the jaw. The jaw is misaligned when the top and lower teeth do not align comfortably in the mouth.
Overbite (protruding of upper teeth) and underbite (the lower teeth lie in front of the upper teeth) are the two most prevalent types of misalignment.
What Is a Headache?
A headache is defined as a discomfort or pain in the head or face. Migraine, tension, and cluster headaches are all types of headaches. Primary or secondary headaches might occur, though. Primary means there’s not a specific reason for it, and secondary means that another condition causes it.
How to Know a Headache is Due to Jaw Misalignment?
People often mistake the jaw pain that comes from TMJ disorder for stress or a migraine. In fact, one study found that 31% of the people who had headaches caused by TMJ disorder were wrongly told they had tension-type headaches.
Why are they so easy to get mixed up? Because the muscles in your head are directly connected to the upper and lower jaw which has a direct impact on the jaw joint. A large, fan-shaped muscle, called the temporalis, found on each side of your head together with the masseter and lateral pterygoid muscles are the main muscles that are used for chewing and grinding food. The muscles in your cheeks called the buccinator muscles are often called accessory chewing muscles and are used for compressing the cheeks to help in swallowing and chewing.
When these muscles get tight, or hurt because of stress, anxiety, teeth grinding, or because your jaw joints aren’t functioning properly (a condition called JAMSS), they put a lot of pressure on your head and cause headaches and face pain.
How your teeth fit together when you bite down can also cause TMJ and sometimes even chronic headaches. When your jaw isn’t in the right place, and your bite isn’t even, it puts stress on your mouth. Stress can sometimes be enough to make the jaw click, pop, and lock due to TMJ damage inflammation or other issues which can cause pain.
Causes of Jaw Misalignment
Occlusal issues (bite and jaw problems) may be indicated by out-of-alignment, highly worn, or frequently broken teeth, fractured fillings, or loose crowns. It may also hurt to bite on your teeth, or they may be sensitive.
The causes of this condition can be multifactorial, and understanding them is crucial for diagnosing and treating jaw misalignment effectively. The main jaw misalignment causes are:
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder
A hinge joint called the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) joins your lower jaw and skull. You can yawn, chew, and talk, thanks to your TMJ. However, the muscles that support the joint may also be to blame for your headaches if something is wrong.
TMJ muscles on the top and sides of the head, in the cheeks, under the jaw, and in the cheeks may be the source of the discomfort.
Bad Bites and Malocclusion
In severe cases, malocclusion can result in muscle tension, trouble breathing, speaking, or chewing, headaches, tooth wear, tooth fracture, and jaw joint strain. The teeth normally should fit together smoothly in a healthy bite.
But when your teeth don’t align properly, that’s called malocclusion, and can look like overbite, underbite or open bite (where the teeth only touch in the back of the mouth), your jaw muscles must work against them constantly when eating, swallowing and communicating.
This results in the teeth issues mentioned above. Additionally, it causes fatigue and muscle strain. These can make speaking or eating painful or difficult. Your jaw’s capacity to open may also be restricted.
Stress and Muscle Tension
When people clench their teeth, or Grind their teeth (“bruxism”), they can wear down or fracture their teeth overworking the muscles and ligaments of the face and jaw, resulting in face and jaw pain.
Stress and muscle tension have been identified as significant factors contributing to jaw misalignment and bite changes. Prolonged periods of stress can lead to increased muscle tension in the jaw and surrounding areas, causing imbalances in how the upper and lower jaws meet. This excessive tension can result in symptoms such as excessive teeth grinding or clenching, further exacerbating misalignment over time.
Symptoms of Jaw Misalignment
While not all headaches are because of TMD or jaw issues, you’ll know if they are when other symptoms accompany these headaches. Here are some of the typical symptoms of jaw misalignment:
Problems with jaw joints
Some of the pressure from your muscles pulling against your teeth manifests at your jaw joint. This may cause parts of the jaw to shift, limiting how wide you can open it or possibly causing it to lock. You may also hear a popping or clicking sound coming from the joint or detect uneven jaw movement.
Jaw pain and sore jaw muscles
Jaw pain, also known as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain, refers to discomfort or soreness in the jaw joint and surrounding muscles. The TMJ is the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull, allowing you to open and close your mouth, chew, speak, and perform various jaw movements.
Locked jaw and problems chewing
When the jaw is misaligned, it may lead to a locked jaw joint, making it difficult to open or close the mouth fully. This can result in limited jaw movement and lead to problems with chewing, such as discomfort or pain while eating.
This pain may be localized to the jaw area or radiate to other parts of the face, such as the temples, cheeks, or even the ears. The severity of the pain can vary, ranging from mild discomfort to sharp, intense sensations.
The earache may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), or even temporary hearing loss. It’s important to note that earaches caused by jaw misalignment do not originate from an ear infection.
Tooth Wear and Tooth Pain
An uneven bite can cause excessive pressure and stress on certain teeth. Over time, this can result in wear, loose teeth and tooth pain, or even toothaches.
Jaw Misalignment Headache Relief and Treatment
More research is required to develop a safe and effective treatment for TMJ diseases, including TMJ headaches. As a result, conservative therapies are frequently suggested. Many therapies and prevention methods are extremely simple to do, and they can include:
Regular Visits to Dentists
Visiting a dentist can help you mend Jaw Misalignment headaches. Getting a dental examination will help you stay alert for any changes in your teeth and foresee the case of a possible dental procedure.
Some benefits of regularly visiting the dentist are:
- Other factors should be ruled out.
Ear, sinus pain, and tooth abscesses can cause headaches and jaw pain, but an exam will rule them out.
- Examine your teeth for tooth-grinding damage.
To prevent future damage, the dentist will inspect your teeth for wear and tear caused by teeth grinding.
- Assist you in getting a bite splint.
If your dentist feels that teeth grinding and clenching are causing your headaches, he or she may recommend a bite splint. This low-cost gadget reduces sleep-related jaw and dental pressure.
- Examine the operation of the TMJ.
The evaluation will look at jaw function including vertical opening. The dentist will also look for popping, clicking, and painful muscles.
Changes in Lifestyle
It can be beneficial to alter minor jaw-related behaviors, such as:
- Not eating anything chewy or hard.
- Lowering stress to avoid coping mechanisms like clenching the jaw.
- Preventing jaw movements like those associated with yawning or chewing gum.
- Exercises for the jaw might ease your pains and relax your muscles.
Therapy and Relaxation Techniques
Muscle relaxation techniques play a vital role in managing bruxism and headaches. These techniques primarily focus on soothing the tense facial muscles involved in this habitual behavior. One effective approach involves incorporating regular exercise into one’s routine, as it not only promotes overall muscle relaxation but also aids in stress reduction.
Engaging in physical activities such as yoga, stretching, or cardiovascular exercises can help release tension in the facial muscles and contribute to the overall relaxation of the body.
Muscle Relaxants and Pain Medication
Consult your doctor about further possibilities if non-invasive, conservative treatments are ineffective. They may want to prescribe something stronger or make a stabilizing splint (bite guard) to position the jaw. Your dentist might also provide a stabilizing splint.
Splints are a typical TMJ treatment. They may guard your teeth if you grind them, but there isn’t enough evidence to say for sure that they relieve discomfort.
These are still merely short-term, reversible treatments, much like the ones previously described. They shouldn’t be seen as long-term fixes.
Alternative, more durable treatments are available, like dental work and orthodontic work, to permanently alter your bite.
However, the efficacy of none of these treatments has been established.
When contemplating a long-term cure for TMJ headache discomfort, proceed with considerable caution. Finding a doctor who is familiar with and experienced in treating TMJ discomfort and headaches should be your top priority.
Visit Your Dentist to Get Rid of Those Headaches
It’s essential to seek help from a dentist or certified bruxism specialist to diagnose and treat the underlying causes of headaches caused by jaw misalignment. You can prevent headaches from TMJ and alleviate the associated pain and discomfort with the proper treatment and lifestyle changes. Don’t suffer in silence or let your oral health deteriorate; seek help today!