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The Head and Jaw Connection

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD or TMJ) is a condition that affects the jaw joint and muscles responsible for the movement of the jaw. In mild cases, TMJ may only cause a popping or clicking sound when you open and close your mouth. However, it can cause various other symptoms, including pain in the jaw joint, difficulty chewing, and headaches. 

Headaches can be one of the more difficult, reoccurring side effects that accompany TMJ. Unfortunately, frequent headaches can disrupt your day-to-day routine

young man holding the bridge of his nose indicating a headache TMJ treatment dentist in Columbia Maryland

TMJ and Headaches

TMJ can cause headaches because of the close proximity of the temporomandibular joint to the ear and temple regions. The pain from the jaw joint can radiate to the surrounding muscles, causing headaches. The type of headache associated with TMJ is typically a tension headache, which feels like a band around the head.

The pain from TMJ-related headaches can vary in intensity and duration. Some people may experience a dull ache, while others may feel sharp and intense pain. The headaches can also be sporadic or occur daily. In some cases, they may last for hours, leading to a decreased quality of life.

Treatment Options

A dentist can diagnose TMJ through an examination of the jaw joint and surrounding muscles. They may also use X-rays to determine the extent of the damage. Once they make a diagnosis, Dr. Becker can provide several treatment options to manage TMJ and its associated symptoms.


Pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, can help reduce the pain associated with TMJ and headaches. Additionally, a dentist or physician may also prescribe muscle relaxants to help relax the muscles in the jaw joint. If you don’t want to use medication, you may use a combination of heat and ice therapy to minimize your discomfort. 

Oral Appliances

Another way Dr. Becker can help manage your TMJ symptoms is with the use of an oral appliance. This is a custom-made appliance that fits perfectly in your mouth, creating a comfortable fit. An oral appliance can help relieve pressure on the jaw joint and prevent teeth grinding—a common cause of TMJ. 

Physical Therapy

In addition, you can try physical therapy to help relieve TMJ symptoms. Typically, physical therapy includes exercises that help strengthen the jaw muscles and improve mobility. A physical therapist may also use heat or ice therapy to alleviate pain and inflammation.


Surgery is typically the last resort for managing TMJ symptoms. Generally, it is only for patients who have severe jaw joint damage or have not responded well to other treatments. Surgery can repair or replace the jaw joint. However, it is a more invasive procedure with potential risks and complications.

Preventing TMJ-related Headaches

There are several things that you can do to prevent TMJ-related headaches. 

Food and Rest

Sometimes, your food choices can irritate the jaw joint and muscles. For example, hard or chewy foods can put extra pressure on the jaw joint. Avoiding these foods can help your jaw rest.

Another way to rest your jaw is to try reducing your stress levels. When we are stressed, we may clench our jaw, creating tension in the muscles. Relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises can alleviate stress and tension.