Jaw related headache is caused by bite malfunctions which can be inherited or introduced by new dental restorations leading to a change in your bite, or sometimes orthodontic treatment (braces).
People with inherited bite malfunction can often live without symptoms for years and then suddenly get severe symptoms. These are usually triggered by severe stress such as the death of a relative, sudden unemployment, stress at work, divorce etc.
Some people live with symptoms and mild pain that they are able to cope with, but then it becomes much worse and unmanageable for reasons listed above. The headache can be specific to a certain point in the day. For instance, a person that grinds their teeth during the night may wakeup restless with headache. Another common situation: the paint may find that they have headache during the day, peaking at the most stressfull points. When the patient later arrives home and has time to relax the headache subsides. It is important to make the patient aware of this as it is common the patient is not aware that they are grinding or pressing their teeth together during the day or night. Signs can often be seen in the mouth such as tongue and lip impressions and bruxo-faucets.
It can sometimes be hard to localise the source of the headache as it tends to radiate. Sometimes if muscle related, palpation of the muscle will trigger headache similar to that of the chief complaint. Sometimes headache can also be caused by taking various medications.
Jaw pain or problems is also very common.
Pain can be caused in different ways. Trauma or over activity of the muscles are two common reasons. The source may vary from Muscle related to joint related. If muscle related, the chewing muscles are often tender when palpated. If the pain is joint related, pain usually exists during movement of the jaws such as max opening and or is tender during palpation over the Temperomandibular joint (slightly anteriorly to middle of the ear). Clicking sounds or scraping sounds may sometimes be heard from jaw also. Scraping sounds can exist without pain or with pain and inflammation of the joint. Clicking sounds vary depending on the position of the condyle (jaw) in the joint during movement – these can also be either symptomatic or non symptomatic.
The umbrella term for these disorders is Temperomandibular diseases. This sort of thing can be treated and is one of our special interest here at Andersson dental care. The treatment involves an assessment of your general health and life situation, previous dental treatment needs to be assessed and followed up and In most cases we find a bite problem. An ‘off centre’ bite or a ‘high’ filling or crown which has caused a change in the way you bite together and thus a strain on the jaw joint and muscles.
An acrylic splint which is like a special form of mouth guard worn at night will bear the excessive bite forces and relax the jaws.
Once your jaws have relaxed we can assess your bite again and see which teeth are ‘getting in the way’ and then change your bite accordingly. This means that we may file down a high filling or crown that is too big.
This can involve a process of several appointments but often the awareness that there are no severe sinister causes can reassure and drastically reduce stress and dental symptoms.
My teeth feel as if they are fitting in better’, ‘my bite feels even now’ are the most common responses from much relieved patients
Toothache or jaw pain??
It is important to distinguish jaw pain from toothache. Jaw pain can feel the same as dental infection. In confusion many patients ask for the tender teeth to be extracted and sadly many healthy teeth may have been root treated or extracted when they could have been kept longer. Have you ever heard your dentist say that he can’t find anything wrong even though you have severe toothache? The problem may well be due to your bite physiology and can be treated. This is important as after a tooth extraction the remaining teeth have to carry the increased load. Gaps and especially whole sections of the mouth where there are no teeth increase the risk of jaw pains and tender chipped teeth.