Do you frequently suffer from migraines? The intense pain, along with other possible symptoms like nausea and blurred vision, can be debilitating. Often, over the counter pain medications simply are not enough to get you back to feeling like yourself. What can you do to have more migraine-free days? One possible solution involves a visit to a dentist who offers oral appliance therapy. Let’s talk about the relationship between migraines and TMJ dysfunction (TMD) and how you may be able to address both issues at once.
Migraines and TMD: A Strong Correlation
The TMJ is the joint that connects the lower jaw to the rest of the skull. It is complex and delicate, and when it is overstressed or out of alignment, a number of symptoms can result. Common indicators of TMD include jaw pain, a locking sensation in the jaw, and difficulty chewing. Individuals with TMD also often report headaches and migraines.
In fact, one study from Brazil found that “that patients with chronic migraine… are three times as likely to report more severe symptoms of TMD than patients with episodic migraine.” The study included 84 women in their 30s. Some of them were chronic migraine sufferers, others experienced episodic migraines (fewer than 15 days per month), and the control group had no history of migraines. Just over half of the control group had symptoms of TMD, while 100 percent of the chronic migraine sufferers had symptoms.
What is responsible for the seeming connection between TMD and migraines? It may have to do with nerve endings called nociceptors, which are part of the body’s pain-processing mechanism. TMD causes constant nociceptive input and may worsen migraines.
The researchers in the above-mentioned study noted that TMD isn’t necessarily a predictor of who will get migraines. However, the condition may seriously exacerbate the intensity and frequency of migraine attacks.
One possible means of finding relief for both TMD and migraines is the use of custom oral appliance. The purpose of such an appliance is to gently reposition the jaw, thereby relieving stress on the TMJ and allowing it to heal. It can also prevent bruxism (teeth grinding and clenching), which is a common cause of TMD.
Of course, oral appliance therapy is not the only means of addressing TMD. A dentist who is trained to treat this condition will first have to examine you and learn about your symptoms before they make a treatment recommendation. Facial stretches, occlusal (bite) adjustments, and in severe cases, surgery may be part of a patient’s TMD treatment plan.
Migraines are a serious problem. Fortunately, finding a degree of relief may be as easy as giving your TMJ a little TLC.
Dr. Keith Hollinger is a dentist in Glastonbury who focuses on helping patients find relief from TMD, sleep apnea, and other orofacial conditions. He has more than 25 years of experience, and he is a proud member of the American Academy of Orofacial Pain. If you would like to learn how Dr. Hollinger addresses TMD and its associated symptoms, contact our practice at 860-430-5687.