Your Jaw May Be to Blame for Your Migraine Headaches

Temporomandibular disorder, or TMD, is characterized by severe discomfort and pain, often leading to a lowered quality of life for patients. The most common symptom of TMD is facial pain which can trigger further pain throughout your upper body. The symptoms experienced by TMD patients differ from individual to individual-patients may experience numerous symptoms. TMD symptoms may be temporary or may become chronic issues that last over several years. TMD can affect anyone at any age. TMJ issues are also twice as common in women than men. Women, using supplemental estrogen or oral contraceptives, have a higher risk of TMD.

Symptoms of TMD

  • Pain or tenderness in TMJ area, face, neck, shoulders, and in/around the ears whenever you speak, chew, or open your mouth wide
  • Pain in one or both of your jaw joints
  • Problems with trying to open your mouth wide
  • Jaws that lock or get stuck in the open or closed positions.
  • Popping, clicking, or grating sounds in the TMJ when you open your mouth, close your mouth, or chew
  • Fatigue or tired feeling in facial muscles
  • Trouble chewing or experiencing sudden uncomfortable bite
  • Swelling on the side of face

TMJ issues and TMD can be incapacitating, making it difficult to talk or comfortably eat. Once your jaw joints are impacted, other parts of your complex chewing system are compromised. The intricate working parts throughout your jaw naturally compensate for your affected TMJS, leading to further symptoms experienced. Facial muscles and nerves compromised by TMD often result in these symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches and widespread facial pain hearing problems
  • Earaches or a ringing sensation in the ears jaw clenching and teeth grinding
  • Excessively worn, loose, broken, or chipped teeth sensitive teeth that react to hot, cold, and/or chewing gum recession
  • Wedge-shaped or abfractions in the teeth at the gum line
  • Eustachian tube dysfunction

With such a wide scope of cascading symptoms, TMD is often misdiagnosed causing patients to go from specialist to specialist. And estimated 10% to 15% of Americans suffer from one or more of these symptoms, making proper treatment pertinent. TMJ dysfunction is often misdiagnosed, resulting in ineffective treatment plans that fail.

TMJ care is best provided by a specialty dentist that rather than trying to treat each individual symptom will address the underlying cause of your TMJ disorder, and treat it in a logical and definitive manner.

Causes of TMD

It can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of TMD in patients, but dentists believe that symptoms arise from issues with the corresponding facial muscles or with parts of the TMJ itself. It is common for patients to have TMD due to a combination of causes and factors while some patients can attribute their TMJ discomfort to certain conditions. The known causes of TMD are:

  • Grinding or clenching your teeth-this puts significant pressure directly on TMJs
  • Heavy blows, whiplash, or other trauma that directly affect the jaw, teeth, or muscles of your head and neck
  • Movement or erosion of the cartilage disc between the ball and socket of the TMJ
  • Arthritis leading to damage of the cartilage disc
  • Chronic stress than can result in tightening facial and jaw muscles or clenching teeth
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Misalignment of your chewing system-improper bite
  • Poor posture in the upper back and neck that can lead to strain and abnormalities of facial muscle function
  • Excessive gum chewing

Evidence is clearer that many TMJ problems are associated with Sleep Breathing Disorders because of under developed upper and lower jaws. These following conditions can significantly increase your risk of developing TMD:

  • Jaw injuries
  • Arthritis
  • Chronic jaw clenching or teeth grinding
  • Certain connective tissue disease that causes issues that may compromise TMJs
  • Chronic stress that may increase jaw clenching and muscle tension
  • Genetic predisposition to pain sensitivity and increased stress responses

Any event or factor that disrupts your chewing system can potentially result in TMD. The complexity of your chewing system requires each component to work simultaneously in order to effectively and comfortably chew, speak, and swallow.

TMD Diagnosis

Unfortunately, TMJ problems are some of the most commonly misdiagnosed illnesses out there. TMJ dysfunction can result from several different causes. For the patient to get relief from their symptoms, their individual case must be accurately diagnosed and an appropriate, customized treatment plan initiated. In our practice, Dr. Williams uses computerized tomography (CT) scans to examine the patient’s bone and tissue structure to detect hidden problems. Computer analysis of the CT scans, in addition to analysis of patients airway, ensures that we can achieve an accurate diagnosis and design a safe, effective, and individually appropriate treatment. Dr. Williams will evaluate all components of your complex chewing system. We also use study models of your mouth, along with jaw movement simulation instruments, for a more detailed bite analysis.

TMD Treatment Plan

Dr. Williams is honored to provide leading treatment options for her patients. She customizes every treatment plan for each patient to treat each underlying cause. The first phase of TMD treatment requires using a temporary device known as an orthotic. An orthotic effectively pacifies facial pain and muscle spasms while stabilizing, and centering, the TMJ and other working components. Your muscles will be happy and you will be free of pain, your bite will then be corrected with Invisalign, traditional orthodontics, restorative dentistry, or a combination of the three.


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Distress or Chronic Stress

Distress or chronic stress is uncontrollable, prolonged, or overwhelming stress. Once stress becomes distress, the body manages to survive though not always to thrive. For example, when faced with periods of chronic stress, the body’s immune system function is lowered, and the digestive, excretory, and reproductive systems no longer function the way they should. In a state of distress, the cells of the immune system (and other body systems) are unable to respond normally and produce levels of inflammation which increase the risk of further health issues.


Homeostasis refers to your body’s ability to regulate itself and maintain a comparatively stable internal environment despite external and internal conditions and events.

Your body is designed to be in a state of homeostasis, where all the systems within are functioning optimally.


Stressor is anything that is perceived by the body as challenging, threatening or demanding.

Health Story

In the context of My Wellbeing Compass, your “Health Story” represents the combination of your dis-eases, conditions, symptoms and the history that binds them together. It is multi-layered and multi-dimensional. Unearthing and resolving the root causes at the core of your Health Story is the only way to truly rewrite this Story.

Natural Self-repair Mechanisms

The body is made up of intelligent, living cells that are dynamically connected. They communicate and just know what to do and when to do it in any given situation. They grow, replicate, repair, and age. Every 90 days, the body has a new bloodstream; every year, it manufactures billions of new cells; colon cells refresh every 4 days; the skin is entirely regenerated every 2-3 weeks; white blood cells regenerate in about 1 year; the liver renews itself at least once every 2 years; and the skeleton replaces its cells entirely every 10 years.

You are an incredibly complex, interactive, and dynamic living organism that is well-equipped with self-repair mechanisms that can fight infections, eliminate toxins, fix damaged DNA, destroy cancer cells, and even slow down aging.

This natural self-healing ability (also referred to as cellular intelligence or body’s innate intelligence) explains spontaneous remissions from seemingly “incurable” diseases.


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