woman holding her face while sitting at work desk, stressedHeadaches are a common occurrence for many of our friends and neighbors in Miami Beach. About half of all adults experience headaches occasionally. However, some people experience headaches much more frequently: an estimated 4% of people experience headaches 15 days a month or more.

It’s common for people to think of headaches as a minor nuisance, but they can be much worse than that. For some, they can be disabling. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that migraines alone are the sixth-largest source of work time lost to disability.

There are many challenges in getting good headache care. First, we don’t really understand headaches well. Headache research lags behind other conditions–some headache doctors say by as much as 50 years! The US only spends about $40 million dollars each year on headache research. That’s about the cost of 10 long-range anti-ship missiles (AGM-158C) and less than the cost of two elementary school buildings. Even granted that there are an additional $28 million dollars spent on migraine research, it’s much less than we spend researching pain conditions like rheumatoid arthritis ($87 million/year) and inflammatory bowel disease ($177 million/year). (Research on what the National Institutes of Health (NIH) terms temporomandibular muscle/joint disorder (TMJD) is about $17 million/year.)

Another problem is that numerous medical conditions have headaches as a symptom, which makes it hard to pinpoint what is the true cause of your headaches. For many people in Miami Beach, temporomandibular joint disorders (what most people call TMJ or TMD) are an unsuspected cause of regular headaches. Here are four signs that your headache may be linked to TMJ.

Some Headache Types Are Linked to TMJ

Doctors will often diagnose your headaches as either “primary” headaches or “secondary” headaches. Secondary headaches develop as a symptom related to another health condition. Primary headaches are headaches that don’t have another known cause. Often people diagnosed with certain types of primary headaches may later find that their headaches are actually related to TMJ.

Headache types that later turn out to be linked to TMJ include:

  • Migraine
  • Sinus headache
  • Tension headache
  • Hypertension headache

These are the most common types, and if you have them, you should consider TMJ a possibility. However, others may also end up linked to TMJ.

The problem is that many doctors don’t know much about TMJ, and they may not consider it a possibility. Their job is made even more difficult by the fact that TMJ has many symptoms, some of which you might not think to report to your doctor.

Current Headache Treatments Aren’t Working

Another important sign that TMJ could be causing your headaches is that your current headache treatments aren’t working or aren’t working well. Headache medications might provide minor or temporary relief. However, they aren’t giving long-lasting relief or keeping your headaches away.

These treatments might not give long-lasting relief or prevent headaches because they only treat the symptom, not the cause. If your headaches are linked to TMJ, you won’t see relief from them until you start treating your TMJ. Then you’ll see improvement in headaches, including fewer headaches and less intense headaches.

You Have Other TMJ Symptoms

Another important clue that your headaches are TMJ-related is that you have other TMJ symptoms. This can be hard to figure out because TMJ has many symptoms, and people in Miami Beach often report some of them to their dentist and some to their doctor.

Some common TMJ symptoms (in addition to headache) include:

  • Jaw pain
  • Neck pain
  • Back pain
  • Ear pain
  • Tinnitus (ringing, buzzing, or roaring in the ears)
  • Ear fullness
  • Popping, clicking, or grinding noise when you open your jaw
  • Irregular jaw motion
  • Limited jaw motion or lockjaw

People often have different combinations of symptoms. You might experience some of these symptoms but not all. You might also experience different symptoms as your TMJ evolves.

Headaches Occur After Jaw Activity

Another sign that TMJ might be causing your headaches is that they tend to flare up after heavy jaw activity. This isn’t always easy to notice. For example, you might notice if headaches happen after you chew a really dry, tough piece of Easter ham, but you might not think about it after opening your mouth really wide for a hamburger or even just a yawn.

Another time people don’t notice their jaw working is when they’re clenching their teeth due to stress. You might not know you’re doing it, but you’re working your jaw muscles and stressing your joints whenever you do this. This is why we suspect any headache linked to tension or stress might be a TMJ headache.

People often clench their teeth at night. This is called night bruxism, and it often causes people to wake up with headaches (and possibly sore jaws or teeth). Be aware, however, that sleep apnea is another common cause of morning headaches. Sometimes, though, the two conditions are related.

Help For Headaches in Miami Beach

If you are suffering from regular headaches, and you have even one of these signs, your headaches might be linked to TMJ. Maybe it’s time to see a Miami Beach TMJ dentist. Please call (305) 535-2225 or use our online contact form today to request an appointment at SoBe Dentist in Miami Beach’s Mid-Beach, near the Triton Supermarket.