Dental FAQs​

Head, Neck and Facial Pain FAQs

Here are some of the FAQ we’ve received from our patients. Have additional questions or concerns, call us: 203-883-4433

Headaches are a very broad category of problems and include dozens of potential causes. Dental causes of head, neck or facial pain could include cavities, abscessed teeth, gum infection, cysts, tumors of the jaw bones or swollen glands, broken or cracked teeth and TMJ dysfunction syndrome.
TMJ dysfunction is any pain that results from a conflict between the biting surfaces of the teeth and the jaw joints. It is only one specific problem that can occur with the jaw joint. Unless it can be proven that the pain is caused by a conflict between the teeth and jaw joint, it is not TMJ dysfunction.
It could be TMJ dysfunction, but it might not. The only way to be sure is to go to a dentist who has specific training in treating TMJ dysfunction and be tested. TMJ dysfunction is easy to misdiagnose and so you need to be sure the dentist has the pre-requisite training.
Often, a whiplash injury triggers TMJ dysfunction. Anyone who has had a whiplash injury should be screened for TMJ dysfunction if the pain from the injury does not clear up quickly.
Stress does not cause TMJ dysfunction. A conflict between the biting surfaces of the teeth and jaw joint is the cause. Stress can take a patient, who has been tolerating this discomfort, and reduce their tolerance to the point that the pre-existing dental condition begins to cause pain.
Earaches have nothing to do with your teeth or TMJ dysfunction. However, if you put your finger in your ear, you can see how close it is to your jaw joint and teeth. If you open and close your mouth while your finger is in your ear, you can actually feel your jaw joint move. As a result, what may feel like a ear ache may in fact be a jaw joint problem.
If the dentist has ruled out tooth problems, then you need to be checked for TMJ dysfunction by a dentist who is specifically trained in the diagnosis and treatment of TMJ dysfunction. Most dentists have not had this training.
Braces are great but they have limitations. First, your teeth may be straight but there still could be a conflict between your teeth and jaw joints even after braces. Second, things may have shifted since the braces were taken off.
Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. You need to checked by a dentist trained in TMJ dysfunction.
Most people who do grind their teeth don’t realize it. Look at your teeth very carefully to see if there is any wear that could be due to tooth grinding, even if you don’t think you are doing it.
TMJ dysfunction is the pain that results, and can be proven to be caused, by a conflict between the teeth and jaw joints. The pain is actually muscle pain or cramping from the jaw muscles. These jaw muscles wrap around the entire head.
A tooth infection could definitely cause headaches, particularly an infection in a molar tooth.
A wisdom tooth problem could definitely cause head pain.
A gum infection could also be the cause of head pain.
Taking a pill to mask the pain of a headache does nothing to solve the problem. Symptoms can continue to worsen even if it doesn’t hurt. Many patients who wind up with severe jaw problems that may require major surgery started out as a TMJ problem caused by the bite that was not properly treated.
If your bite is the problem, braces could be the solution but may not be needed. The objective is to eliminate the conflict between the teeth and the jaw joints and other methods include a bite splint as a temporary measure and reshaping the biting surfaces of the teeth (bite equilibration) as a long term solution.
If your bite is the problem, braces could be the solution but may not be needed. The objective is to eliminate the conflict between the teeth and the jaw joints and other methods include a bite splint as a temporary measure and reshaping the biting surfaces of the teeth (bite equilibration) as a long term solution.
A bite guard, if it is properly made, will definitely take away pain that is due to TMJ dysfunction, as long as it eliminates the conflict between the teeth and the jaw joint. However, it only works when you are wearing it. As soon as you take the bite splint out, your bite goes back to where it was before, so it is not a long-term solution.
If a bite splint didn’t help, either it was not adjusted well enough to eliminate the conflict between the teeth and jaw joint or, if it was, your bite is not the problem.
The bite guard they sell in a sports store is designed to act as a cushion to protect your teeth in case of a blow to the face. The TMJ bite splint is not designed to act as a cushion but as a substitute for a properly fitting bite. A properly made bite splint is like when you have a wobbly table in a restaurant. The waiter puts a matchbook under the leg of the table so you have a temporarily stable table. However, when the matchbook is removed, the legs are not equal and the table will wobble again. The solution is to shorten the legs of the table until they are all equal. This is the equivalent of evening the bite by equilbration.