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My Jaw Is Giving Me A Headache!

How can your jaw give you a headache, you may wonder…or neck pain, or tension in your shoulders? The fact is, it can. All the parts of our bodies are connected, not just by bones, but by way of muscles, ligaments, nerves, tissue, veins, arteries, and blood vessels.  For instance, a very large nerve called the trigeminal nerve runs from your brain along the side of your face, and therefore transmits facial sensation to your brain. Therefore, if you think your jaw is giving you a headache, it probably is!

How Your Trigeminal Nerve Factors Into Things

The trigeminal nerve is the fifth cranial nerve in your brain, and is primarily responsible for transmitting sensations from the face to the brain. This large nerve consists of three branches, the ophthalmic, maxillary, and mandibular, each connecting the brain to different parts of your face. Because it consists of both sensory and motor fibers, it:

  • Transmits sensation to and from the mouth, jaw, teeth, face, and nasal cavity
  • Controls chewing, biting, and swallowing

How Bruxing And TMJ Factor Into Things

Bruxing, the grinding and clenching of your teeth, can cause undue pressure on your teeth, gums, bone, and jaw joints (your temporomandibular joints, or TMJs). Bruxing can lead to TMJ disorders and vice versa. Your trigeminal nerve runs right down to your jaw area so if you are having a problem with your jaw joint it can cause a number of symptoms including:

  • Headache
  • Neck pain
  • Tension and/or pain in the shoulders
  • Jaw tenderness
  • Pain in one or both of your jaw joints
  • Pain in and around your ear
  • Ringing in your ear
  • Feeling as if your ear is plugged
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Stiff jaw
  • Facial pain
  • Clicking, popping, or locking of the jaw joints

If you think your headaches are due to a TMJ disorder, don’t hesitate to contact your dentist. Treatment is usually easy and noninvasive and can include a bite guard, physical therapy, or medication.