We know that migraines are among the conditions that tend to be associated with temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ). We also know that teens frequently develop TMJ. So it seems likely that migraine and TMJ would be associated with one another in teens.
The association between these conditions in teens was confirmed in a recent study from Brazil. In addition, researchers found that TMJ was associated with increased frequency of headaches. Because of the overlap between these two conditions, researchers recommend treating TMJ and migraine together to improve results.
Looking at TMJ and Headache Types
For this study, researchers examined at nearly 150 teens age 13-15. They diagnosed TMJ using what is becoming the global standard: the Research Diagnostic Criteria (RDC), and found that about 56% had TMJ. They then compared the incidence of TMJ to the incidence of two types of headaches: migraine and tension type headache (TTH), both diagnosed and probable.
They found that teens with TMJ were three times more likely to have migraines than those without TMJ. Surprisingly, though, there was no association with either TTH or probable TTH.
Looking at the linear progression, they found that teens with TMJ were more likely to have more frequent headaches. Finally, they found that only migraines were associated with an increased number of tender spots in the trigeminal area.
What Is the Link?
On the basis of their results, researchers in this study favored the central sensitization explanation of TMJ and migraine. In this model of the conditions, sensitization of a central structure (usually the brain, but potentially a ganglion like the trigeminal ganglion) can lead to an exaggerated response to stimuli.
In this case, that means that TMJ pain can stimulate the trigeminal nerve to set off migraines. Therefore, to try to reduce the frequency of migraines, researchers recommend treating TMJ. This will cut down the pain sensations, leading to fewer migraines.
Have You Been Tested for TMJ?
If you or your teen has migraines, you have probably researched many potential treatments. But often people overlook the potential for TMJ to contribute to migraine frequency and intensity. Researchers in this study recommend that teens with migraines should be tested for TMJ, since they likely have a 75% risk of the condition. In addition teens who present with TMJ likely either have migraines or are likely to develop them in the future as a result of sensitization.
If TMJ is diagnosed, they recommend a team treatment approach to improve results. This means that a neurologist should work with a doctor (or dentist) with expertise in orofacial pain. Cutting down the intensity and frequency of TMJ pain could lead to a responsive decrease in the intensity and frequency of migraines.
Orofacial Pain Experts in Denver
If you have been diagnosed with migraines and want to learn whether TMJ could be contributing to the problem, we can help. Our dentists have extensive training and decades of experience in dealing with orofacial pain.
We can assess your TMJ and recommend a treatment that can be complementary to your migraine treatment.