Waking Up With Headaches? It Could be TMJ

A woman with a headache

The temporomandibular joints (TMJs) on either side of your jaw are more than just a mouthful to pronounce. They may also be the source of your headaches. If you wake up with headaches, or you have unexplained headaches throughout the day that are accompanied by jaw pain, the two may be related.

Here at Skyview Dentistry, our expert team of dental professionals — Drs. Seti Byrd, Jennifer D’Silva, and David Bunn — ensures that our patients in Charlotte, North Carolina, have access to the best in oral care. Whether your teeth simply need professional cleaning or you’re dealing with more serious issues, like sleep apnea or a TMJ disorder, we can get you on the road to better dental health.

If you’re experiencing unexplained head and jaw pain, here’s a look at how a TMJ disorder may be responsible for your headaches.

The role of your TMJs

Despite their small size, your TMJ joints are rather complicated. These hinge-like joints are responsible for connecting your lower jaw to your skull, while also allowing a wide range of motion. If you take a moment and move your jaw up and down and from side to side, you begin to realize the complexity of these joints.

A TMJ disorder

When something causes swelling in your TMJs, you’re left with pain where your mandible (your lower jaw) meets your cheekbones. And this pain can radiate outward, causing headaches, earaches, and facial pain.

The primary drivers of a TMJ disorder include:

  • Bruxism (teeth grinding) 
  • Arthritis
  • Injury to your jaw
  • Structural issues due to genetics

And some of the telltale signs of a TMJ disorder, outside of the pain, can include:

  • A popping or clicking in your jaw
  • Joint locking
  • Trouble chewing

Unfortunately, the problem may extend beyond your jaw, as we previously mentioned, causing pain in surrounding areas, as is the case with TMJ headaches.

What is a TMJ headache?

There are dozens of different types of headaches, from migraines to sinus headaches. When we refer to a TMJ headache, we’re talking about headaches that are a direct result of a TMJ disorder. 

Unfortunately, these headaches are hard to differentiate from other types of headaches, namely tension headaches, which can feel like your head is trapped in a vice. However, TMJ headaches largely come with the symptoms discussed above, such as jaw soreness or stiffness. In other words, a TMJ headache doesn’t present itself on its own without symptoms directly around your jaw.

Remedying TMJ headaches

In order to address your TMJ headaches, it makes sense that we have to address your TMJ disorder. There are several ways to go about this, depending upon the cause of your TMJ issues. For example, if your TMJs are under duress because of teeth grinding during the night, we can outfit you with a night guard for your teeth.

Since the TMJ pain is caused by swelling in your joints, we often recommend anti-inflammatory medications.

You’d also do well to avoid habits like chewing gum, which put unnecessary stress on your TMJ joints.

If you have a structural issue that needs to be corrected to provide relief for your TMJs, we do offer surgical solutions, which we can discuss with you.

To learn more about TMJ disorders and their possible link to your headaches, please give us a call at (980) 247-3998, or schedule an appointment using the easy online booking tool.


We look forward to meeting you. Call 704.632.7700 or request an appointment online to set up your first visit. We’ll be in touch soon.