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Wall Street Dentistry, Serving Albertville, Gadsden, Boaz and surrounding areas in Alabama

TMJ Headaches vs Migraines

tmj headache vs migraineAlbertville, AL

What ailment affects more than 1 billion people around the world, but has its causes still shrouded in relative mystery? The answer is migraine headaches.

According to recent data compiled by the Migraine Research Foundation, nearly one in four households in the United States include at least one person who suffers from migraines. More than 4 million people deal with chronic daily migraines—defined as suffering at least 15 days with migraines every month.

Even after several decades of clinical examples and medical research, medical science still does not know exactly what causes a migraine attack. In actuality, some patients who believe they suffer from migraine headaches actually are dealing with tension headaches, which manifest from a case of temporomandibular joint disorder.

What do TMJ headaches and migraines have in common?

TMJ headaches and migraine headaches are different types of tension headaches. Both maladies aggravate the trigeminal nerve, which carries more sensory input to the brain than any other neural pathway in your body.

When a person who suffers from migraines has an attack, his or her brain chemistry changes. Serotonin levels drop while the trigeminal nerve transmits signaling compounds that travel to the outer covering of the brain and prompt impulses of pain.

How do TMJ headaches interact with the trigeminal nerve? The temporomandibular joint itself, which attaches your jaw to your skull, is located very close to the trigeminal nerve. TMJ occurs when the temporomandibular joint enters a state of dysfunction. When this joint has issues, it soon impacts the way the jaws work, quickly spreading to the surrounding muscles. Once the musculature is affected, the nearby blood vessels are compressed, and pressure is placed on the nearby nerves, including the trigeminal nerve.

Certain symptoms can be used to distinguish TMJ headaches from migraines. For example, migraine sufferers often experience an aura—a visual hallucination that precedes the onset of an attack.

Many other symptoms are present in both TMJ headaches and migraines, such as:

  • Pain, which can be debilitating in nature
  • Dizziness or feeling light-headed
  • Keen sensitivity to light and/or sound
  • Nausea and/or vomiting


According to the Migraine Research Foundation (, the vast majority of migraine sufferers never seek medical care. Likewise, many cases of TMJ go undiagnosed or untreated. Both maladies have another thing in common; they will not go away by themselves. Treatment from a medical professional is needed.

A neuromuscular dentist has the training and experience to diagnose a case of TMJ, and differentiate TMJ headaches from migraines. At Wall Street Dentistry, we are lucky enough to have the services of Dr. Jonathan Renfroe and Dr. Josh Conley, both of whom study or have studied neuromuscular dentistry as part of extensive education at the Las Vegas Institute, the pre-eminent post-graduate dental institution in the world. The dentist can relax the muscles of your jaw, then conduct diagnostic tests to determine if you suffer from TMJ.

From there, treatment can consist of any of the following:

  • TENS therapy, providing low-level electrical impulses to relax the jaw
  • Pain medication to manage symptoms
  • Orthodontics
  • Restorations
  • Oral appliance therapy

If you suffer from chronic painful headaches and TMJ is the cause, then the headaches will not be resolved for good unless the TMJ itself is treated. Contact our office at (256) 878-0525 today to schedule a consultation.

Wall Street Dentistry provides total oral health care for patients in Albertville, Boaz, and Guntersville, Alabama.

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