Causes of TMD/TMJ Associated Headaches

Bernardsville Dentist Serving Morristown, Basking Ridge, Mendham, Chester, and Far Hills, NJ

Headaches seem to be the universal symptom for just about anything. While many headaches have a medical reason for occurring, they can also be caused by a dental issue.

Very severe, migraine-like headaches can be a symptom of temporomandibular joint dysfunction, commonly called TMD or simply TMJ after the joint itself. If you suffer from headaches but have failed to recover after treatments recommended by other healthcare professionals, it may be time to see your dentist. Dr. Patti at Aesthetic Dentistry of Bernardsville in New Jersey is skilled at treating TMJ/TMD and the painful headaches associated with a misaligned bite (malocclusion).

Knowing the causes of TMD can help understand how this dysfunction can cause headaches. A brief summary of the causes of TMD include:


Stress – it’s what we think of first as the cause of clenching or grinding our teeth (medically known as bruxism). Bruxism is a serious condition that can cause TMD and also can loosen, crack, or break teeth and cause other problems that require professional treatment.

An abnormal bite, missing teeth, misshapen teeth, or crooked teeth can also cause bruxism. This pressure can inflame the temporomandibular joint and nerves, resulting in headaches that radiate from the jaw to any part of the head or neck.


Injuries, such as a jaw dislocation, are bound to cause localized pain. Left untreated, injuries can develop into TMD over time. Add to it inflammation, swelling, and irritation radiating to nearby areas and you get headaches that are indirectly caused by TMD.

Other Types of Disease

Even arthritis can be a cause of TMD, and in turn, of associated headaches. Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, can occur secondary to a lax jaw during sleep, effectively becoming a misaligned bite. Additionally, lack of sleep can cause headaches. Sleep apnea can be treated with bite blocks to hold the jaw forward during sleep. This treatment is similar to that for a misaligned bite.

Jaw Pain

TMD symptoms can include clicking, popping, and even locking of the jaw, which in turn can cause muscle spasm and both local and radiated pain. That pain can manifest as a headache or even neck and shoulder pain.


Headaches can be so elusive that doctors have difficulty finding their exact cause. At Aesthetic Dentistry of Bernardsville, we have several diagnostic procedures that will determine whether muscle tension or jaw sounds are present, and to what degree. We can determine your ideal jaw position and whether your jaw is misaligned.

Treatments for TMD

Neuromuscular dentistry goes beyond traditional dentistry to treat problems of jawbone alignment, muscles, nerves, and tissues. There are several neuromuscular approaches to treating TMD.

  • TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Neuromuscular Stimulation) sends an electrical impulse to the jaw muscles that allows them to relax.
  • Orthodontics and dental restorations reshape your teeth and offer other alternatives for treating a misaligned jaw.
  • Other advanced technology used at Aesthetic Dentistry includes the K7 evaluation system, which tracks jaw movement and helps Dr. Patti determine the ideal resting position for your bite.

If you are suffering from headaches and would like to know if TMD treatment would relieve your pain, please contact TMJ dentist Dr. Patti Swaintek-Lamb at Aesthetic Dentistry of Bernardsville by completing our online form or calling (908) 221-1188 to arrange a personalized evaluation. We welcome TMJ sufferers from Bernardsville, Morristown, Basking Ridge, Mendham, Chester, Far Hills, and surrounding areas in New Jersey.

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