When the teeth don’t fit together correctly the muscles that move the jaw can be put under extra strain, a condition known as malocclusion. So many muscles in the head and neck are linked to the jaw and so common symptoms of malocclusion are tension headaches, migraine-type headaches, and pain in the neck and shoulders.
Headaches and neck pains that are related to teeth and the muscles of the jaw joint are quite common. It’s not so surprising considering the range of functions of the temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ), located where the skull connects to the jawbone on both sides of the head.
The TMJ has to work constantly every day to facilitate chewing, swallowing and talking, so when something goes wrong it immediately affects your quality of life.
Tension headaches, especially first thing in the morning, can also be caused by grinding or clenching the teeth during sleep, or at times of stress, a condition known as bruxism. Often this is a subconscious habit and most people are unaware of it, particularly if it occurs at night.
About a quarter of adults in the UK suffer from bruxism, and the pressure on the teeth during grinding can be 20 times greater than when eating. Eventually, on top of causing tension headaches, it can overload the teeth and cause them to fracture and lose enamel.
So controlling TMJ issues can prevent serious dental problems from occurring later on. Treatments might include jaw exercises and splint therapy to help reposition and protect the jaw at night. In some cases Botox injections can also help with this condition.