That Chronic Headache May be TMJ

Jun 06, 2023
That Chronic Headache May be TMJ
Is your chronic headache a sign of an underlying dental issue? Read on to learn more about the connection between persistent headaches and TMJ disorders.

Experiencing chronic headaches can be incredibly frustrating, especially if conventional treatments don't seem to provide relief. One often overlooked cause of persistent headaches is temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. 

TMJ disorders are dental conditions that affect millions worldwide, causing pain and discomfort in the jaw, face, neck, and head. 

At OneSource Dental of South Tampa in Tampa, Florida, Nancy Horton, DMD, and her skilled team are dedicated to helping patients understand, diagnose, and manage TMJ-related symptoms.

In this blog, she explains what can cause TMJ disorders and some of the treatment options.

The basics of TMJ disorders

You have two temporomandibular joints — one on each side of your head — and they connect your jaw and skull. Furthermore, they allow you to open and close your mouth, chew, and speak. 

A TMJ disorder occurs when an issue arises with one or both joints or the surrounding muscles, which can result in pain and discomfort.

Some common symptoms of TMJ disorders include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw 
  • Clicking or popping sounds when you open or close your mouth
  • Difficulty chewing or biting
  • Locking of the jaw, making it difficult to open or close your mouth
  • Headaches that feel like tension headaches or migraines
  • Ear pain or ringing in your ears
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Dizziness or vertigo

If you've been experiencing chronic headaches along with any of these symptoms, you should consult with Dr. Horton to determine if a TMJ disorder is the cause of your headaches.

Causes of TMJ disorders 

A TMJ disorder can develop for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common causes include:


An injury to your jaw, such as a blow to your face or a sports-related accident, could trigger a TMJ disorder.

Misaligned bite

If your teeth don't fit together properly, this could put extra stress on the jaw muscles and joints, which could cause a TMJ disorder to develop.


If you have this condition, this means you grind or clench your teeth. This condition usually occurs during sleep, and it can lead to TMJ pain.


High stress levels can lead to muscle tension in the jaw, which can contribute to a TMJ disorder.

Poor posture

Straining your neck and upper back muscles can affect your jaw's alignment, which could lead to TMJ pain.

Determining the exact cause of a TMJ disorder requires a series of tests and diagnostic exams. 

Diagnosing TMJ disorders

At OneSource Dental of South Tampa, Dr. Horton will conduct a comprehensive examination to determine whether your chronic headaches are a result of a TMJ disorder. This diagnostic process typically starts with physically inspecting your jaw and surrounding muscles.

Dr. Horton will assess your jaw's range of motion, listening for clicking or popping sounds and checking for pain or tenderness in the joint and nearby muscles.

Next, if necessary, we'll carry out imaging tests, such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans. These tests can provide a detailed view of your jaw and surrounding structures, which can help identify any abnormalities or damage.

Dr. Horton will also discuss your dental and medical history to see if trauma or surgery could be related to your TMJ disorder.

Treating TMJ disorders 

Treating TMJ disorders typically involves one or more of the following options:


Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs can provide temporary relief from pain. Muscle relaxants can also help reduce muscle spasms and tension.

Dental treatments

In cases where a misaligned bite is the cause of your TMJ disorder, Dr. Horton may recommend orthodontic treatments, such as braces or Invisalign, to correct the issue. Dental restorations, such as crowns or bridges, may also help adjust your bite and alleviate the TMJ symptoms.

Oral appliances

Custom-made dental splints or mouth guards can help reduce teeth grinding and clenching and relieve pressure on the jaw joint.


Surgical interventions, such as arthrocentesis, arthroscopy, or open-joint surgery, may be considered for severe cases that don't respond to more conservative treatments. These procedures are typically reserved for significant joint damage or persistent symptoms.

While there's no one-size-fits-all solution for TMJ disorders, working closely with Dr. Horton and the team at OneSource Dental of South Tampa can help you find the best course of action to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. 

Don't let chronic headaches control your life. If you suspect your pain may be related to a TMJ disorder, call 813-879-9299 or book an appointment online with OneSource Dental of South Tampa today. With years of experience and a compassionate approach, our team is dedicated to helping you find relief from TMJ pain and regain your health and well-being.