TMJ Headaches vs Migraines

tmj headaches

tmj headachesServing patients of Erwin, Jonesborough, and Greeneville, TN

Approximately 30 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches, but despite that rather substantial sample size, the affliction itself is one of the most mysterious in the entire medical world. There remains no consensus on why migraines happen—only what happens during a migraine headache.

Migraine sufferers experience a change in their brain chemistry during an attack. Serotonin levels plummet, while the trigeminal nerve releases signaling compounds. These compounds travel to the outer covering of your brain, triggering impulses of pain.

Adding to the general uncertainty about what causes migraines, many people who think they suffer from migraines actually are having headaches as a symptom of temporomandibular joint disorder. Known as TMJ for short, this disorder occurs when the temporomandibular joint enters a state of dysfunction.

TMJ headaches may feel like migraines but, in reality, they are a type of tension headaches. Many times, a patient with TMJ has overactive or imbalanced muscles in the area of the jaw or neck. TMJ also can lead to tightened muscles in the jaw, head, and neck. This tightening compresses blood vessels and places undue pressure on nerves, which can lead to painful tension headaches.

Why do TMJ headaches mimic migraines?

The similarity between TMJ headaches and migraines occurs because both types of headaches react with the trigeminal nerve. This nerve relays more sensory information to the brain than any other neural pathway, including the spinal cord.

TMJ headaches and migraines also have many of the same symptoms, including:

  • An aura, which is a visual hallucination that commonly precedes the onset of a migraine
  • Severe pain
  • Dizziness

How do I know if I suffer from TMJ headaches, as opposed to migraines?

Frequently, a case of TMJ can go undiagnosed because the patient believes he or she is suffering from migraine headaches instead. In these instances, a patient may find that migraine medication helps manage the pain and other symptoms of a headache, but does nothing to diminish the frequency with which the headaches occur. Does this sound like something you have been experiencing? If so, TMJ could be the cause. 

Patients and even medical professionals can misdiagnose TMJ headaches as migraines. In order to find out for sure, seek the care of a trained neuromuscular dentist such as the ones at Tusculum Dental Care who serve TMJ sufferers in the areas of Greeneville, Jonesborough, and Erwin in Tennessee. Our neuromuscular dentists possess training that goes far beyond normal dental school that focuses on attaining or restoring the ideal alignment of the bite and jaw—and thus resolving any jaw problem such as TMJ.

Headache Relief in Greeneville

Whether you suffer from TMJ headaches or migraines, the office of Tusculum Dental Care can provide relief by helping restore the ideal alignment of your bite and jaw. If you or someone you love suffers from migraines or other painful headaches, know that relief is within reach. Call our office at (423) 639-7575 to schedule a consultation.

Tusculum Dental Care is proud to provide comprehensive oral health care services to patients in the areas of Greeneville, Jonesborough, and Erwin in Tennessee.