Oh how I hate it when I get a headache, the crushing pain in my temples, eyes that feel like they are about to fall out of my face and throbbing that makes me think my head might just explode! A headache has me quickly reaching for a pain killer and a lie down in a quiet darkened room with a soothing eye pillow on my brow until a headache subsides.
Thankfully for me, headaches are a rare occurrence and almost a thing of the past but those people who regularly suffer from headaches and migraines are not so fortunate. Headaches can be extremely draining and debilitating and for many, they occur so frequently that normal everyday life becomes extremely difficult.
Often when we have a headache the first thing we reach for is some form of pain relief. When that doesn’t help and the headache persists or keeps recurring we may even visit the doctor to seek advice and assistance.
But did you know that your dentist may be able to help?
If you suffer from headaches, migraines, facial pain, pain behind your eyes or pains in your neck and shoulders you should mention it to your dentist as the cause may actually lie inside your mouth.
The cause of your headaches could be due to problems with your bite which is known as an occlusion in the trade. The way your teeth meet when your jaws close together can impact on your jaw joint and surrounding muscles. If your bite is out of balance it can have far-reaching effects on your health, posture and wellbeing.
Often patients will come in and say to me they think they have TMJ. What they actually mean is they think they have a problem with their TMJ, which is the shortened term for the jaw joint.
Temporo-Mandibular Joint disorder is a neuromuscular jaw condition caused by an imbalanced bite. When the bite is “out” the jaw joint causes pressure on the nerves muscles and blood vessels in the head which can result in headaches, migraines, facial pain, tinnitus or even toothache.
TMJ problems can be caused by an imbalanced bite, postural problems, habits like chewing fingernails or because of clenching and grinding the teeth which is usually due to stress and/or nutritional imbalances.
Many people have an imperfect dental bite (malocclusion) and never show any symptoms as they are able to adjust to their problem. But for those who can no longer adapt some will get headaches whilst others may experience problems with their teeth or gums such as broken or cracked teeth, broken fillings, loose teeth or toothaches with no obvious cause or even receding gums.
So how can your dentist help?
Depending on your problem, it can be possible to spot the signs of dental malocclusion with a simple jaw joint and bite analysis.
As part of your holistic dental care, I regularly check the position of the jaw joint, the movement of the jaw and check for any clicks along with tenderness in the biting and facial muscles and those of the neck and shoulders. I also look for signs of wear and tear on your teeth, cracked teeth, worn fillings and gum issues, which are all telltale signs of a TMJ issue or grinding.
As your holistic dentist, I may be able to help you directly by addressing your dental issues and supporting you with lifestyle and nutritional changes as stress and mineral deficiencies play a role in TMJ and grinding problems. It may be necessary to provide you with a splint to wear that assists your jaw muscles to relax and learn to bite normally again or I may refer you to a specialist who deals with occlusal problems.
In some cases your teeth or fillings may need to be carefully adjusted to meet evenly, as changing the direction and position of the slopes that guide your teeth together can often help reposition the jaw. If your teeth are too far out of line or in a totally incorrect bite position, it may be necessary to fit a brace to move them into a better position.
The TMJ needs equal support from both sides of both jaws, if you have missing teeth especially at the back of the mouth, these may need replacing as the chewing action is designed to work properly only when all your teeth are present and in the correct position. The missing teeth can be replaced either with a partial denture, bridgework or implants.
Old and worn fillings may also need replacement to improve the biting function and provide additional support and balance for the joint.
As with any joint pain, it can help to put less stress on the joint and muscles so a soft diet and anti-inflammatory medications can be helpful, as can corrective exercises, self-massage and external heat. I find that bodywork, esoteric facial release, special jaw exercises and supplements can often help. But it is also important to address any underlying stress and emotional issues that could be leading to tension and jaw clenching.
So if you think your headaches, facial or neck pains could be from TMJ or grinding issues my advice is don’t suffer in silence, call and speak to us today 07 3720 1811