Headaches and TMJ
Most of us have some bite irregularities, and for 25% this can cause pain and clicking in the jaw joints, headaches, a stiff neck, worn, broken, loose or sensitive teeth and gum problems can be made worse. This page will help you to understand why.
What Is TMJ And Occlusion?
TMJ stands for Temporo-Mandibular Joint, in other words, the jaw joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull, just in front of your ears. The Occlusion is the way your teeth bite together.
The occlusion dictates the joint position when your mouth is closed and the TMJ determines how the jaws and teeth move away from that position when you open your mouth. The third factor in the system is the power behind the skeleton, the muscles.
If you have symptoms of what we call TMJ syndrome, you may have muscle pain, or joint pain caused by the actions of the muscles, or tooth problems from the forces applied by the muscles in trying to cope with the occlusion.
How Will I Know If I Have A Problem?
Most people clench or grind their teeth, maybe when concentrating, sometimes when stressed and, often unknowingly, at night. You may wake up with a stiff jaw, a painful or noisy TMJ or with tender teeth, because grinding at night is usually the most damaging, being less inhibited by sensory feedback.
If you find difficulty chewing because the muscles get tired, the TMJ hurts or your teeth are tender, you have TMJ syndrome. Tension-type headaches, a stiff neck or a stiff shoulder, can also be due to problems with your occlusion, causing a repetitive strain-type injury.
That’s Me! What Can I Do?
Speak to your dentist. We have all taken extra training to diagnose these problems and some of us have had extensive practical training in the treatment of bite problems. We have subsequently had a great deal of success with these treatments.
The first step in coming to a firm diagnosis about the effect of your occlusion is to make a plastic splint for your bottom teeth. This allows the top teeth to meet the “lowers” evenly, spreads the load across all the teeth and ensures that the TMJ is in the correct position.
This in turn relieves muscle tension and relieves overload of individual teeth. This appliance will need to be adjusted at regular intervals, to compensate for the healing that will be happening. This process will vary from 4-6 weeks in simple cases up to several months in cases with long-standing, complex problems.
When the jaws are stable and comfortable, confirming the link between the occlusion and the symptoms, a definitive solution can be planned. Correction of the bite to replicate what has been successful in the splint can usually be achieved by subtle adjustment of the tops of the teeth. This is called occlusal equilibration.
Missing teeth may need replacing, some teeth may need building up to achieve contact and occasionally orthodontics (braces) may be needed if the teeth are too far out of line.
What Else Can Help?
Physiotherapy exercises, relaxation therapy and stress management can also help to reduce the symptoms of TMJ syndrome. Anti-inflammatory medication may be useful in acute cases.
How Much Will It Cost?
The appliance therapy will cost around £670 and equilibration £600. Replacement teeth, etc., will vary from person to person and your dentist will advise you of the likely cost.