Does TMJ Cause My Headaches?

A young woman grimaces in pain and holds her jaw with her hands, implying TMJ pain, as she looks off to the side.

Does TMJ Cause My Headaches?

Do you think about your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) when you open your mouth to talk, eat, or yawn? Most people don’t unless there’s a problem moving their jaw sideways, forward, or back. It’s also possible for your TMJ to also be a leading cause for those frequent headaches you may be facing. Shocking? Well, the two issues can be co-related.

What is TMJ?

TMJ, or Temporomandibular Joint, is like a sliding hinge connecting your lower jaw (mandible) to the skull (temporal bone). You have one each on both sides of your jaw. The joints slide and rotate on the front of each ear and are among the most complex joints in the human body. The bilateral joint aligns to function as a single unit allowing for multiple complex actions like:

  • Breathing
  • Chewing
  • Facial expressions
  • Opening the mouth
  • Swallowing
  • Talking
  • Yawning

If the movement of the TMJ joint isn’t in synchronization, several problems could occur.

What is TMJD/TMD?

Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJD) or Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD) is a common musculoskeletal condition that impacts your jaw muscles, TMJ, and the associated nerves. It prevents the complex system of those nerves, muscles, and bones from working in harmony and results in TMJD. More than 10 million Americans experience TMJ disorders every year. While TMj/TMD is not life-threatening, it can be a serious problem and can have negative consequences on your overall health.

The condition can often lead to excessive straining of the jaw joints. This can trigger trauma, leading to involuntary grinding (bruxism, to be specific) or teeth clenching. If left unattended and untreated, the constant clenching and grinding can be painful and could affect your entire jaw, head, neck, and shoulders.

TMD Causes

The specific causes TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction) remain unclear in many cases. However, the excessive strain on jaw joints is primarily believed to affect the muscles controlling speech, chewing, and swallowing. In some cases, trauma to the head or neck, a misaligned bite, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome can also be causing TMD. A recent study found that there can also be clinical, genetic, psychological, and sensory factors for putting you at risk of developing TMD.

TMD Symptoms

Common signs of TMD include jaw discomforts, mostly in the morning, locking jaw, restricted mouth motions, teeth grinding and clenching, tooth sensitivity, tooth misalignment, headaches, pain behind the eyes, and earaches. You may also experience dizzy spells, wearing tooth enamel, upper back pain, and numbness in your fingers. These symptoms can almost always look like other medical conditions. Therefore it is crucial to see a specialist for an accurate diagnosis.

The Connection between TMJ and Headaches

Try this – clench your jaw and grind your teeth for a few seconds.

Do you feel a sudden tension in your cheeks, sides, eyes, and head? Now imagine clenching and grinding consistently for a few days or months. In fact, try opening your mouth widely a few times, keep talking for a long time, or chew tough edibles, and you put your jaw muscles to test.

The proximity of the jaw, TMJ, and head means discomfort can easily travel everywhere around.

In case of bruxism or teeth clenching, it stresses your mouth joints and muscles. Your jaws start to pain, and your teeth wear down. The pain travels up to the temples and shows up as mild to severe aches. Consistent clenching and grinding can cause jaw cramps leading to pulsating, migraine-like headaches.

If it’s a misaligned bite, it weakens your jaw and the surrounding tissues and muscles. When this happens persistently, the result is a headache. Stay in a poor posture, and it furthers your jaw pain, ultimately increasing headaches.

Since your temporomandibular joint connects your lower jaw to the skull, an inflammation can impact all the adjacent muscles and nerves. Without seeking proper treatment, the inflammation would keep growing, and the damage to your muscles becomes more severe.

Signs TMJ is Causing Your Headaches

Headache is a common complaint among people today. There can be several reasons behind the discomfort leading to missed work days, lost productivity, and less socializing. But how do you know if TMJ is causing your headaches? Look out for these clues:

  • Your teeth show signs of wear
  • You clench your teeth more during, before, and after your headache
  • You experience severe discomfort after any jaw activity
  • You may be experiencing unexplained upper body pain
  • Your jaws feel restricted and click or pop when you open or close your mouth
  • Conventional headache care isn’t showing any significant result

Unfortunately, we can often track down the causes of a headache (even migraine) only with the process of elimination. TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction) will usually be the last on the list of causes. Surprisingly, people with TMJ disorders are 60% more likely to experience migraines or even vertigo. Those with muscular TMJ, compared to jaw muscle tension, are at double risk of multiple migraines daily, which can be pretty scary.

Who Can Treat Your TMJ?

If you are wondering who can treat your TMJ, Dr. Margaret Mitchell is an expert in the treatment of TMJ. She has helped hundreds of patients in the Chicago area. She can help you understand your TMJ problems better than anyone and suggest further treatment options.

TMJ disorders can be both medical as well as dental.

Often arising due to a dental issue, TMJ can also result from an underlying medical condition. Sometimes, you might have to work with two different experts for a comprehensive solution. In most cases, however, TMJ is a primarily a dental disorder, and you must consult a TMJ specialist, like Dr. Mitchell, to identify the nature and severity of your symptoms for a correct assessment.

How Can a Dentist Help with TMJ Dysfunction?

If your TMJ headaches and other symptoms come from tooth and jaw alignment problems, a TMJ dentist may be able to help alleviate the discomfort. The TMJ (temporomandibular joint) anatomy is quite intricate. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to fixing TMD. Dr. Mitchell will work to understand the specific reasons causing your TMD. Usually, the treatment plan includes stabilizing your bite, relieving muscle spasms, and long-term management.

If you looked up “TMJ dentist near me” online, you’ll likely come across Dr. Margaret Mitchell at Mitchell Dental Spa, a TMJ expert who can help you with your problem. We offer high-quality and affordable solutions for your dental needs.

Generally, your treatment would depend on the following factors:

  • Age
  • Dental structure
  • Medical history
  • Overall health
  • Your resistance to medications
  • Severity of the symptoms
  • Personal preferences

Cold and hot packs, facial exercises, pain killers, diet changes, stress management, over-the-counter medications, using a mouth guard, etc., may be helpful.

Most of the time, the pain can be temporary and easily curable if you avoid your triggers. But if at-home pain relief tips don’t work, your TMJ dentist may suggest advanced treatments like:

  • TENS therapy for facial muscles and TMJ joint
  • Trigger point injections to relieve pain
  • Decay and infection removal
  • Bite rehabilitation
  • Using dentures
  • Surgical option

Please note that conservative treatments don’t work for degenerative diseases or injuries, and surgery might be a top priority. However, it is essential to know the risks and benefits of the treatment option you choose to restore these functionality issues.

Meet Dr. Margaret Mitchell Today to Help With Your TMJ

Visit the Mitchell Dental Spa to help you with an accurate diagnosis and devise a customized treatment plan. Book a consultation with Dr. Margaret Mitchell today. Call (312) 642-1014 to know more about TMJ treatments and other services at Mitchell Dental Spa, a premier dental spa in Chicago committed to the well-being of our patients.

When you walk into our facility, you’d feel welcomed and at home. Dr. Margaret Mitchell and our expert staff offer cutting-edge dental services to help you live your life to the fullest. Schedule your appointment today at, and you’ll be treated with compassion, kindness, and respect.


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