Management of TMJ, Migraines
& covid clenching

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montecito, ca

How does my jaw make my head hurt or cause headaches

The jaw plays a crucial role in the overall structure and functioning of the head and neck. When issues arise with the jaw, it can lead to headaches and neck pain. Here are some ways jaw problems can cause these symptoms:

Covid Clenching & Bruxism:
 “Covid Clenching” or Bruxism Teeth Grinding, Facial Pain Have Increased Due to Stress from COVID-19. Scientists have found that many people experience increased teeth grinding and pain during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is most likely due to the pandemic stress and anxiety. If you have dealt with more dental symptoms, such as teeth grinding, jaw clenching, and jaw pain during the COVID-19 pandemic, this probably isn’t just a coincidence. Times of stress and anxiety can lead to adverse health effects like temporomandibular disorders (TMD) and bruxism (teeth grinding).  Anyone who’s under stress is likely to experience jaw clenching and teeth grinding. As reported on national media - People are under immense stress during the Covid-19 pandemic, and it’s showing up on people’s teeth. The American Dental Association found that 63 percent of dentists have seen teeth cracked as a result of grinding or clenching their teeth at night.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder:
 The TMJ connects the jawbone to the skull. TMJ disorder occurs when this joint malfunctions or misaligns. It can be caused by various factors such as teeth grinding, jaw clenching, arthritis, or injury. When the TMJ is affected, it can cause pain in the jaw, face, and temples, and even radiate to the head, leading to headaches.

Muscle Tension and Spasm:  Chronic muscle tension in the jaw, typically associated with bruxism or teeth grinding, can strain the surrounding muscles. This excessive muscle activity can cause headaches, often called tension headaches. The muscles involved in jaw movement are closely interconnected with the muscles of the head and neck, so tension and spasms in the jaw muscles can refer pain to the head.

 Trigeminal Nerve Irritation:
The trigeminal nerve is a major nerve responsible for carrying sensory information from the face to the brain. When the jaw is misaligned or experiencing excessive pressure, it can irritate the trigeminal nerve. The sensory nerves of the head & face travel near to or through the different muscle groups that control the jaw. When the jaw joint is not in harmony, the tension created in the muscles can put pressure on these nerves & cause them to become irritated over time. This irritation can result in referred pain, including headaches and facial pain.

Dental Issues:  Problems with the teeth, such as malocclusion (misalignment), tooth decay, or abscesses, can cause referred pain to the head. Dental issues can affect the jaw alignment and functioning, leading to headaches and facial discomfort. It's worth noting that stress and anxiety can exacerbate jaw-related issues, as they often contribute to teeth grinding and jaw clenching. The resulting muscle tension and strain can lead to headaches.

If you're experiencing persistent jaw pain or headaches, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a dentist or a doctor specializing in orofacial pain. This professional can evaluate your specific symptoms, perform an examination, and provide appropriate diagnosis and treatment options.

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Did you know......

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Most headaches that are thought to be migraines are actually headaches caused by the jaw muscles & related nerves.

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What To Expect: TMJ/myofacial pain evaluation and treatment

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intra/extra-oral exam

First, Dr. Hlavaty examine the joint, the jaw and how they operate to determine if there is any damage to the joint and to identify if there is dysfunction in the joint itself. He will then examine the muscles that control the jaw & check out how the teeth fit together.

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x-rays/CT scan

To properly evaluate the TMJ, Dr. Hlavaty will take X-rays & sometimes a CT scan will be needed to see inside the joint to help determine if there is interior damage to the bony structures of the jaw.

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Treatment options

Once Dr. Hlavaty has determined the source of the problem or problems affecting the jaw & causing the pain or discomfort, he will put together a treatment plan with various options to address the underlying problems & help to get you out of pain

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Follow up

Dr. Hlavaty will send you home with  instructions on how to properly take care of the issues. Depending on the types of treatments prescribed, there may be need for multiple treatments over a period of time. These treatments may include oral appliances, bite adjustment or rebuilding, muscle relaxation exercises, electrical muscle stimulation, injections of medications, or referral to a surgeon if there is severe structural damage to the joint.

Have Questions About headaches & jaw pain? Find Answers Here.

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can tmj/jaw pain/headache issues be cured?

Patients often ask about the long-term outlook for TMJ treatment. While there may or may not be a definitive cure for your specific issues, we can provide information on managing symptoms and improving jaw function over time. In a lot of cases we can correct the underlying problems, but that usually requires the functional rebuilding of the occlusion (bite). This typically requires a combination of crowns/veneers/fillings that are built to guide the jaw into its proper anatomical positioning thus taking the stress off the joint & surrounding musculature. This is a great option for some patients, but can be difficult for some due to financial constraints. In cases where correcting the underlying issues is not feasible, we focus on management of the symptoms, allowing patients to return to a normal pain-free life.