Bloomington / Normal, IL

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Is Your Jaw Giving You a Headache?


Submitted by Todd Gray, DDS, D.ASBA, Koala Center for Sleep & TMJ Disorders

If you have a headache, your first reaction may be the medicine cabinet for pain relief or a visit to the doctor. However, if the problem persists it might be something you should mention to your dentist as the cause may actually lie in your mouth.
Dental treatments for headaches are highly effective and are beginning to gain credibility within the medical community. So much credibility, in fact, that one of the nation’s largest headache groups recently recognized dentists as having a role in the diagnosis and treatment of people with chronic headaches.
Many patients who have headaches, jaw and facial pain as well as pain or ringing in the ears, never consider that the pain is caused by a misalignment in their jaw.

Tension Headaches Can be Linked to the Jaw
It is believed that 45 million Americans have disabling, chronic headaches, and the economic costs due to job absenteeism, lost production, and medical expenses are estimated to be as high as $50 billion annually.

Approximately 35 million also suffer from Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD), often referred to as TMJ, caused by an imbalanced bite. When your teeth are not in proper relation to each other and to your jaw joints (TMJ), the jaw automatically shifts to a new position in an attempt to compensate for the misalignment. Even what looks like a good bite could be at the expense of putting pressure on the jaw joints which causes pressure to be put on the nerves, muscles, and blood vessels.

Many people have an imperfect bite yet never show symptoms as they adjust to their problem. For those who do suffer, teeth and gums may be affected, and instead of headaches, you may encounter broken teeth, fillings, loose teeth, and toothache with no apparent cause.

If you suffer from continual headaches or migraines; pain behind your eye; jaw clenching or teeth grinding; clicking or popping jaw joints; dizziness; earaches; sinus pain; or pain in the neck or shoulders; you should consider visiting a dentist that is experienced in diagnosing and treating TMJ problems.

Treatment Options for TMD-related Headaches
A custom-fitted mouth appliance can help many headache sufferers. These non-invasive orthopedic appliances are refined and adjusted to eliminate bite disharmony and pain while repositioning the jaw and relaxing the muscles. While the orthotic will temporarily stabilize the jaw, permanent stabilization may be necessary.

Patients suffering from these symptoms usually consult their primary care physician first, and then are referred on to an ENT or neurologist depending upon their symptoms. But more and more physicians are realizing the benefits of a specialized dental treatment for TMD and related headaches. It just makes sense to consult a dentist that specializes in oral appliance therapy and see if that may be the root cause of your pain.

For more information, contact the Koala Center for Sleep Disorders by calling 309-319-6568 or visit their website at Dr. Gray has dedicated his practice to the treatment of snoring, sleep apnea, and TMJ disorders with oral appliance therapy. The custom-made appliances are covered by most major medical plans and Medicare. The Koala Center for Sleep Disorder accepts appointments without referrals but will work with your physician throughout treatment.