Migraines are unfortunately common, with one in twelve Canadians having been diagnosed with migraines by a health professional. They are also notoriously hard to treat with medicine. This leaves millions of people every year with no choice but to suffer through the pain.
And migraine sufferers go through a lot. First, it’s the pain of an intense headache itself, which can be debilitating and may be chronic. Then there’s the challenge of getting a diagnosis and understanding the cause. Finally, there’s the quest to find a long-lasting solution to the pain.
Unfortunately, many people with migraines are looking for answers in the wrong places. They may seek answers from a family doctor, medical specialist, physiotherapist, chiropractor, alternative healer, and anyone else who says they have a remedy. They often don’t even consider talking about their condition with their dentist, yet that could be the answer to their problem.
The source of your migraine may be your mouth
More precisely, the source of a migraine may be the jaw joint, or temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This is one of the most complex joints in the body, and when it’s not functioning properly, it can cause a variety of symptoms. One of the most common symptoms is a headache, including migraines.
It’s not the jaw joint itself that causes a migraine, but the muscles that support it. When the TMJ doesn’t work correctly, the surrounding muscles work harder to compensate and can become stressed and tight as a result. This can then lead to tension headaches or, less commonly, to migraines.
How a dentist can help your headaches
First, a dentist may be able to help with your migraines by examining your bite and jaw joint to determine if that’s a potential source of the problem. If the bite and jaw look good, they’re likely not the cause of your migraine. If they look “off,” your dentist can discuss the next steps to take.
When I treat patients for migraines, it’s a two-phase process. In phase one, the patient wears a temporary appliance. Phase two may consist of crowns, veneers, or orthodontics for lasting results. Depending on the problem, the objective of treatment may be to fix the bite permanently so the jaw can work correctly or to relieve pressure on the joint so the muscles don’t become overworked.
How do you know if you have TMD?
The best way to know if you have a problem with your jaw joint is to go to a dentist with experience treating TMJ disorders. Before doing that, you can keep an eye out for these common signs that your jaw joint is not working optimally:
- Clicking, popping, or locking of the jaw joint when you open or close your mouth
- Unexplained pain in the jaw, neck, or shoulders
- Ringing in your ears
- Unexplained ear congestion
If you have any of these symptoms, you may have TMJ disorder.
A solution for chronic pain
As a dentist, eliminating a patient’s pain is the most gratifying work I do, as I know it has a direct impact on quality of life. It’s especially gratifying when someone has looked for a solution for a long time without success and is finally able to experience true relief.
If you suffer from migraines and you’ve never found the source of your pain, I encourage you to make an appointment and speak with a dentist who has experience in treating TMJ disorders. It could be life-changing.