TMJ and Headaches

tmj and headachesErie, Harborcreek and Millcreek, PA

Nothing can disrupt your day quite like a headache. A severe headache impedes your ability to function that day; it affects your performance at work or school. Frequent, painful headaches can even interfere with your relationships or social life.

Frequent headaches, is it something more?

Certain people are unfortunate enough to suffer from headaches of a severe intensity on a regular basis. These headaches may have been diagnosed as migraines, or feel like headaches of migraine-like intensity. Have you been dealing with headaches like these? If so, your doctors may have provided multiple descriptions and diagnoses of what is causing the headaches. Maybe you have been given traditional migraine remedies, but these medications only diminish the intensity of your headaches, which still occur with the same frequency.

Does any of the above sound familiar? If so, your headaches actually may be caused by temporomandibular joint disorder. Also known as TMJ, this disorder stems from a dysfunction of the jaw joints and can be treated by an experienced neuromuscular dentist like the one on staff at Laser Dentistry of Erie, LLC.

How does TMJ cause headaches?

The temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to your skull. If this joint develops any problems—which usually stem from an injury—then it can create problems in the manner in which your jaw joints function. Over time, a problem in the function of the temporomandibular joint can affect the adjacent muscles, nerves, and blood vessels.

One of the nerves closely located to the temporomandibular joint is the trigeminal nerve. A crucial part of your nervous system, the trigeminal nerve carries more sensory input than any other neural pathway in the entire body—even the spinal cord.

Other functions of the trigeminal nerve include the following:

  • Commands about facial expressions
  • Pain signals
  • A variety of involuntary functions, which manage and control the safety and comfort of the brain, such as blood supply and air pressure

We know from MRIs and other diagnostic imaging tools that the trigeminal nerve plays a key role in many cases where a person suffers from regularly occurring headaches, especially those that cause significant pain.

Because the trigeminal nerve is in proximity to the temporomandibular joint, this nerve is often affected by a case of TMJ. Once impacted, the subsequent vascular consequences can create tension or other stimuli that may lead to painful headaches that occur on a frequent basis.


If you are suffering from chronic headaches that are caused by TMJ, treating the symptoms of the headaches themselves will not provide lasting relief. The only long-term solution is to treat the TMJ itself.

A neuromuscular dentist is the best-qualified medical professional to treat a case of TMJ. Neuromuscular dentists have extensive post-graduate training that goes above and beyond what is taught in dental school. This additional education focuses on finding, or restoring, the ideal alignment of the bite and jaw, bringing the orofacial system back into a harmonious state.

Neuromuscular dentistry seeks to treat TMJ by restoring the proper alignment of the jaw. Oral appliance therapy is the preferred method of treatment, but other options include the use of orthodontics or dental restorations. Treatment will vary, depending on your case of TMJ. For patients suffering from chronic headaches as a result of TMJ, we also may prescribe pain relief medication to manage your discomfort.

Click here to learn more about TMJ headaches, and how they differ from migraines.

We hope you find this page helpful in discussing the relationship between TMJ and headaches. However, this is a complicated topic that many patients understand better after meeting in person. If you have any additional questions about the information on this page, or you suffer from chronic headaches that you think could be caused by TMJ, then contact Laser Dentistry of Erie, LLC, today to schedule a consultation with our neuromuscular dentist, Dr. Albert Starr. Dr. Starr has undergone rigorous post-graduate training in the principles and methods of neuromuscular dentistry and has helped many patients suffering from TMJ find lasting relief.

How do I know if I have TMJ?

As mentioned above, the most common cause of TMJ is an injury, which is sustained to the jaw, head, or neck. Other causes of TMJ can include arthritis, stress, or habitual grinding and clenching of teeth. If you have experienced any of these, in combination with frequent painful headaches, then TMJ could be the cause.

Do you have any other questions about TMJ, the relationship between TMJ and headaches, or how Laser Dentistry of Erie, LLC diagnoses and treats this disorder? If so, click here, or call our office at (814) 825-2615 to schedule a consultation.

Remember, if you suffer from headaches that are being caused by TMJ, they will not go away on their own, nor can they be treated through normal remedies for headaches. The only way to find relief is by treating the cause.

Laser Dentistry of Erie. LLC is proud to provide total oral health care for Erie, PA, and the surrounding areas.