Do you suffer from chronic headaches? If so, you’ve probably tried a number of things in hopes of finding relief. Maybe you’ve changed your diet, started drinking more water or wearing blue light glasses when using your devices. Maybe you’ve even visited a chiropractor. But if you still can’t figure out what’s causing your chronic headaches, it might be time to look at your bite. As your Thornton orthodontists, the Shine Orthodontics team is here to tell you why. In this post, we’ll share:
- How bite problems can cause headaches
- The link between malocclusion, TMJ and headaches
- How orthodontics can help stop your headaches for good
Are My Teeth Causing My Headaches?
If you’ve been wondering whether your bite can give you headaches, the simple answer is yes, it absolutely can. When your upper and lower jaw are aligned, your teeth fit together perfectly and the muscles in your jaw can relax when your mouth is closed. With malocclusion (or more simply, a misaligned bite), your jaw muscles are constantly under strain. This can lead to chronic tension headaches, tooth loosening, excessive wear and tear on the teeth, and tooth fracture. In more serious cases, malocclusion may cause muscle tension, difficulty with chewing, speaking or breathing, or strain on your jaw joint.
Teeth grinding is another common cause of chronic headaches. Also known as bruxism, teeth grinding is usually seen in children but may also affect adults. Whether you unconsciously grind your teeth while sleeping or when you’re awake, serious cases of bruxism can lead to headaches, tooth damage and jaw damage.
TMJ and Headaches
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects the lower jaw to the rest of the head. While the term TMJ is often used to refer to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD) or general temporomandibular disorders (TMD), TMJ is actually the name of the joint itself.
TMJ disorder occurs when the TMJ becomes stressed, injured or misaligned. This may be the result of several different factors, such as stress, malocclusion, teeth grinding and clenching, arthritis in the joint, or trauma and injury to the head, neck or jaw. If you suffer from TMJD or TMD, you likely experience frequent jaw or facial pain, pain in the neck, shoulders or ears, and frequent headaches.
How to Treat Headaches Caused By TMJ
Before we can treat your headaches, we need to understand exactly what’s causing them. If you think bite issues are causing your discomfort, there are a number of TMJ treatment options that we offer at Shine Orthodontics. The first step is to visit your Thornton orthodontist to get a complimentary assessment of your mouth and an accurate diagnosis.
During your first appointment, Dr. Brandon Scheer can help you determine the cause of your TMJ disorder and recommend the appropriate treatment. The specific treatment will depend on the cause and severity of your TMJ disorder. TMD treatment may include jaw and facial relaxation exercises, lifestyle changes, restorative dental treatments, a mouthguard or nightguard, or orthodontic treatment with braces or Invisalign. In extreme and rare cases, jaw surgery might be the best solution. But don’t worry: Dr. Scheer always encourages patients to try less invasive, non-permanent treatment options before exploring more invasive treatments.
Orthodontic Treatment for TMJ Headaches
So how can Invisalign or braces help fix your TMJ headaches? In addition to giving you a perfectly straight smile, orthodontic treatment works to guide your jaw into the correct position. With your jaw in the ideal alignment, you’ll experience less strain on your jaw muscles which will alleviate your headaches.
However, since orthodontic treatment with braces or Invisalign causes permanent changes to your teeth and jaw, we only recommend this as a treatment for TMJ disorders if it is truly the best option for the patient’s unique case. Here are some of the orthodontic issues we can correct to help reduce your headaches:
- Overbite: Overbite refers to the amount of overlap between your upper and lower teeth. It’s normal to have a small amount of overbite, but an excessive overbite can cause problems such as wear of the front teeth and jaw pain. When someone has too much overbite, it’s called a deep bite.
- Underbite: An underbite is when the lower front teeth are on the outside of the upper front teeth when the mouth is closed. This is a serious orthodontic problem and causes issues with eating, excessive wear on the front teeth, and jaw joint problems.
- Overjet: Overjet is sometimes confused with overbite but it’s slightly different. Overjet is the amount that upper front teeth stick out in front of the lower front teeth. Excessive overjet, also known as protruded teeth, can make you feel self-conscious, increase the risk of trauma or fracture to the front teeth, and affect jaw joint function.
- Crossbite: When a patient has a crossbite, the upper teeth sit on the inside of the lower teeth. Depending on which teeth are involved, it can be a back crossbite or a front crossbite. In a child, this will cause the jaws to grow asymmetrically. It can also cause pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint.
If you’ve been suffering from chronic headaches and think your teeth might be the cause, the Shine Orthodontics team can help. To learn more about your options for TMJD treatment in Thornton, or to see how orthodontic treatment can get rid of your headaches, schedule your consultation with Dr. Scheer today.