TMJ / Craniofacial Pain Questions

Dentists Serving Patients in Sarasota, Venice, Bradenton & Nearby Areas of Florida

How does TMJ Disorder cause headaches or migraines?

TMJ dysfunction causes headaches and migraines by putting excess stress on the muscles, nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue surrounding the temporomandibular joint. When you have TMJ, the muscles and nerves surrounding the temporomandibular joint are under more stress than they need to be. This causes them to spasm or to 


become fatigued, creating a painful result that feels like a tension headache. Also, when the muscles and nerves are strained, it can interrupt blood flow, preventing blood from reaching important parts of the jaw, neck, and head.   There is a continuum between the most simple “tension headaches” and the most severe “migraines” with considerable overlap or causative factors and treatments.

Many of the most common headaches that occur daily, weekly or occasionally are related to jaw joint, bite, muscle and nerve issues that can only be diagnosed and treated by specially trained neuromuscular dentists.  Remember, there is no such thing as a “normal headache.”

Sometimes I wake up with my teeth hurting in the morning. What causes this?

While there may be a few different causes for this, it is a common sign that you are grinding or clenching your teeth while you sleep. Many people are able to go through the day just fine, without grinding or clenching their teeth, but while they sleep, their body attempts to correct their misaligned temporomandibular joint by grinding and clenching. After a night of this, your teeth can become very sensitive and can hurt in the morning.  We may place four to five times as much force on our teeth than normal while grinding at night… up to 800-1000 pounds per square inch!

What is Craniofacial Pain (CFP)?

Craniofacial pain is a term than encompasses any pain in the head, face and neck.  Since our brain and spinal cord are housed in and connected through our head, neck and back, it only makes sense that pain in the head, face and neck in possible conjunction with deterioration of the most intricate and complex joint in the body, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), can be devastating and felt (via referred pain) in many areas of the body. 

Which types of doctors treat TMJ Dysfunction and CFP?

Many people who have been in head, neck or facial pain for years have seen a variety of doctors and healthcare providers to little or no avail.

The primary doctors that study the intricacies of the TMJ in detailed and formal education are typically dentists who continue their education beyond the initial four years of dental school.   Continuing postgraduate education is necessary to effectively understand and treat the derangement or dysfunction of the TMJ and the potentially resulting craniofacial pain (CFP).  If, after thorough examination and diagnostic data is gathered, no structural issues or pathology is found in the lower half of the skull, the dentist may refer you to a neurologist or internal medicine specialist as the health challenge may be more microscopic in nature.

If structural pathology is diagnosed, your knowledgeable and well-trained TMJ dentist can provide you with a variety of therapies and treatment options.  In addition, your TMJ dentist may refer you to an Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon (ENT, or otolaryngologist), a chiropractor, or massage therapist who also have specialized training in treating the structures of the head, neck, face and jaw joint.

How is TMJ or Craniofacial Pain (CFP) relieved or corrected?

There are a variety of TMJ Treatments.  In order to alleviate or correct TMJ symptoms, we use a variety of different techniques that range from quickly relaxing the muscles around the temporomandibular joint, head, neck and jaw with local anesthesia, gentle TENS-ing (Transcutaneous Electroneural Stimulation) as frequently used in physical therapy, occasionally, muscle relaxants and massage, and even, Botox®, which has a longer lasting therapeutic effect of relaxing the muscles involved. Prolotherapy and intramuscular stimulation at the muscular or myofascial trigger points may also be effectively used to activate the healing process, resulting in pain relief and restoration of healthy physiology.

Depending on the extent of your TMD or CFP symptoms, creating a bite or orthodontic appliance that aligns the jaw, applying braces, or even reconstructing your bite by using crowns or other dental restorations can be a long-term solution for you.  After an examination and in-house CAT scan to three-dimensionally evaluate your head, neck, jaw, joint, bite, airways, and skeletal relationship, and sometimes an MRI to evaluated the condition and position of the TMJ cartilaginous disc, we will be able to diagnose your TMJ or craniofacial pain problems and develop a treatment plan that will relieve your TMJ or CFP symptoms as well as develop a plan to restore health to the joints and related tissues and prevent further damage.

Is TMJ Dysfunction (TMD) or CFP treatment covered by my insurance?

If you are suffering from TMJ or CFP symptoms, it is important that you get the proper treatment so that you can avoid serious future problems. The majority of TMJ or CFP treatments are considered medical and can be billed to your medical insurance.  However, TMD treatment is not always covered by insurance plans, and sometimes it is only partially covered.  A referral from your medical doctor or other specialist is often helpful in getting TMJ or CFP treatments covered. The administrative team at The Smile Centre in Sarasota and Venice, Florida is always willing to work with insurance companies and other medical professionals on your behalf.  The Smile Centre also provides different payment options so that your CFP or TMJ treatment can fit within your budget.

When should I begin CFP or TMJ treatment?

Many people feel like initial CFP or TMJ signs and symptoms are not that big a problem, living with some of the symptoms for long periods of time without treatment.  Unfortunately, TMJ/CFP can progress quickly and before you know it, you may be suffering from serious medical and dental problems that could have been corrected or avoided with much simpler treatments.  These pain problems can have serious affects on your quality of life, many times resulting in physical pain, fatigue, depression, relationship challenges and workplace effectiveness.  As is often said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

 If you are concerned that you have a CFP or TMJ Disorder or you are suffering from TMJ/CFP symptoms, contact The Smile Centre to schedule a free initial consultation so that we can evaluate your temporomandibular joint and determine if you have TMJ, CFP or other issues.