What if you could find relief from debilitating migraines by simply wearing braces? I experienced the transformative effects of Invisalign treatment on my chronic migraines, and I’m eager to share my journey. In this post, I’ll dive into the science behind braces and migraine relief, share my experiences with Invisalign and discuss other treatment options for TMJ-related migraine relief.
Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional, and this post is not medical advice. I’m sharing my experiences with migraines and Invisalign braces. Please consult your doctor and orthodontist before beginning any treatment plan.
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Migraines and TMJ
The exact relationship between TMJ disorder and migraines is not yet fully understood. But researchers believe that a misaligned bite or dysfunction of the jaw joint may play a significant role in causing migraines and persistent headaches.
What is TMJ disorder?
Temporomandibular joint disorder is a condition that affects the jaw muscles and joint, often causing pain and discomfort in that area. TMJ (short for temporomandibular joint) refers to the hinge joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull. When this joint becomes dysfunctional, it can lead to a host of uncomfortable symptoms.
TMJ symptoms can include:
- jaw pain, facial pain, ear pain or neck pain
- clicking or popping sounds when you open and close your mouth
- chronic tension headaches
- migraine headaches
The theory is that when the jaw joint isn’t properly aligned, it can create imbalances in the muscles and nerves in the head and neck. This misalignment may cause muscle tension, resulting in painful headaches.
Migraines and TMJ problems
Many people assume that migraines are just severe headaches. However, even though migraines and headaches both refer to head pain, migraine symptoms often include several other unrelated issues, such as visual disturbances (aura), nausea, sensitivity to light or sound, and more. Also, migraines are often unresponsive to over the counter painkillers.
Migraines can be triggered by many different things, such as lack of sleep, hormonal changes, certain foods and more. Learning what triggers an individual’s migraines can be a lifelong process, and often requires more than one type of treatment to get the best relief.
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Research has demonstrated a correlation between migraines and TMJ disorders—many people who have TMJ also have migraines. However, the exact cause and connection isn’t clear yet.
How do braces help migraines?
Braces aren’t a standard part of the treatment of migraines. However, for people who have TMJ problems as well as migraines or frequent headaches, it’s a great option to consider as part of TMJ treatment and migraine management.
By correcting the alignment of the teeth and bite problems through orthodontic treatment, it’s possible to address the underlying issue of TMJ disorder. Braces can alleviate the strain on the facial muscles and nerves by shifting teeth to their proper positions. And that can potentially reduce the frequency and severity of migraines.
If you suffer from headache pain or migraines that you suspect may be triggered by temporomandibular disorders, it’s worth it to look into whether braces may provide some pain relief. My journey with Invisalign braces, designed to address my TMJ disorder, proved to be a turning point in my battle against relentless migraines.
My Experience: How Braces Helped to Alleviate My Chronic Migraines
Before braces, my life was dominated by migraines. I’ve had headaches since age 9, and didn’t recognize them as migraines until my thirties! Additionally, my jaw began clicking and popping whenever I was chewing, starting at age 9, but I never connected that with my headaches. My headaches were a constant, inescapable part of daily activities.
I learned about the TMJ-headache connection for the first time when I filled out the dental problems screening questionnaire at my local dentist in my 20s. I checked all the boxes, and my new dentist explained all about TMJ and its link to headaches.
I immediately began to implement lifestyle changes to help my TMJ problems, like no more chewing gum and choosing softer foods. That brought some relief and fewer real bad headaches.
Wait, those chronic headaches are migraines?!
Not long after that, two of my (adult) siblings were diagnosed with migraines. As I was reading about migraines so that I could understand what was going on with my siblings, it dawned on me that I had been suffering from migraines for most of my life! After years of trying to unsuccessfully manage my “headaches” with over-the-counter medications, I finally began to seek migraine treatment.
All that research brought me to the recognition that my TMJ and migraines were likely connected. It turns out that a misaligned jaw can put undue stress on the surrounding muscles and nerves. That stress may trigger migraines in susceptible individuals like myself.
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Choosing an Orthodontic Treatment
Armed with this newfound knowledge, I discussed with my dentist the possibility of braces as a way to reduce migraine frequency. My dentist agreed that braces might give me significant pain relief by correcting a bad bite. The orthodontic treatment options available to me ranged from traditional metal braces to more discreet alternatives like clear aligners (invisible braces).
Why I chose Invisalign braces
With its clear aligners and gentle pressure, Invisalign seemed like a promising alternative to traditional braces. My dentist explained that Invisalign works by gradually shifting the teeth into their desired position, reducing the likelihood of misalignment-related migraines. Invisalign aligners are nearly invisible, made from smooth and comfortable materials.
This meant that not only could I straighten my teeth discreetly, but also without the added discomfort often associated with traditional braces. This non-invasive approach is particularly appealing for migraine sufferers like myself, since it minimizes the potential triggers that might exacerbate our painful symptoms.
Starting with Invisalign
Furthermore, Invisalign offers the flexibility to remove the aligners for eating, brushing, and flossing. After a detailed consultation, I decided to go with Invisalign because it was easiest to use and maintain. I had 4 small children at the time, and standard braces were simply too impractical for me.
The process of getting plastic braces was not without its challenges. At first, and after each new set of trays, I experienced slightly more headache pain. I had several nights of poor sleep the first few nights with the aligners in, which probably contributed to increased migraines temporarily.
Long Term Results
Adjusting to the initial discomfort required patience and a good sense of humor (I liked to tell my kids I was “taking out my teeth”)! However, as the months went by, I started to notice subtle changes. Not just in the alignment of my teeth, but in the frequency and intensity of my migraines as well.
By correcting the alignment of my jaw, the braces treatment was indirectly targeting one of the root causes of my migraines: TMJ disorder. As my jaw joint gradually moved into its proper position, the strain on the surrounding muscles and nerves decreased significantly.
The result? Fewer migraines and a considerable improvement in the overall quality of my life. I also noticed less popping and clicking sounds from my jaw.
Can braces help migraines?
My experience serves to highlight the potential relief that orthodontic treatment can offer to those who suffer from TMJ and migraines. The connection between a misaligned jaw and migraines should not be overlooked or underestimated.
Getting fitted for night guards is another step that I plan to do soon, since I tend to grind my teeth while sleeping. Teeth grinding can be a contributing factor to TMJ problems and migraines as well.
It’s important to note that one of the side effects of any orthodontic treatment is the possibility for minor headaches when the braces are adjusted. That’s why it’s crucial to work with your care team to determine the cause of your headaches, and rule out other issues.
You’ll want to work closely with your migraine specialist and your orthodontic specialist as you explore the possibility of beginning any braces treatment. They can also help determine if Invisalign is an appropriate treatment for addressing both your dental issues and migraines.
Taking Control of Your Health
As a migraine sufferer and someone with TMJ disorder, I’ve had to spend a lot of time advocating for myself. TMJ disorders are often considered a dental concern, while migraines are usually managed by a doctor, so I learned to discuss these issues with both professionals before making decisions.
I’ve also learned the value in tracking my symptoms and asking lots of questions to make sure I’m getting the best care. The good news is that I now only suffer from migraines a few days each month, instead of nearly every day!
If you suffer from TMJ as well as frequent headaches or migraines, I’d strongly encourage you to look into whether they are connected. I was already content with my smile, but I found that the best way to improve my TMJ issues AND my migraines over the long term was to try braces. I’m thankful for my new smile, but even more thankful for the vast improvement to my wellness and quality of life.
©️ Copyright Jennifer D. Warren 2023.