Headaches are very nonspecific symptoms. They can be related to many different conditions, some of which are very serious. But how do you know if your headache is just a serious headache or migraine, or if it’s something else even more important?
A brain tumor, for example, is a very rare condition, but they do happen, every day, to people of all ages and backgrounds, so it’s important to consider it. Another possibility to consider is that it might be a symptom of TMJ. Here are some symptoms to look for to tell whether your headache is related to either of these conditions.
When to See a Doctor about Headaches
When your headache is related to a brain tumor or other serious cause of brain damage or injury, there are likely to be other warning symptoms that you should keep an eye out for, such as:
- Headache doesn’t respond to over-the-counter medicine
- Duration longer than three days or recurring headache
- Uncontrolled muscle movements, from a small tremor to a full seizure
- Irritability, apathy, and other mood changes
- Personality changes
- Memory loss
- Dizziness, nausea, and vomiting
- Loss of vision or hearing, or hallucinations
These symptoms indicate that your headache is being caused by some form of brain damage, and that it’s likely the effects go far beyond your headache. When you have these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor about your headache and get a comprehensive evaluation.
When to See a Dentist about Headaches
On the other hand, not all headaches originate in the brain. In fact, many people have headaches that are caused by their jaw, a condition called temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or sometimes TMD). These headaches occur when a jaw problem causes pressure on nerves or blood vessels, or leads to jaw muscles to work inefficiently, leading to soreness and overwork that gets shared with muscles in the head and neck.
It’s likely that this is the cause of your headache if you have some of these other symptoms as well:
- Popping, clicking, or grinding jaw
- Jaw pain
- Tooth pain
- Jaw clenching or tooth grinding
- Limited jaw movement, including lockjaw
- Pain in the neck, back, or shoulder
- Ear pain, ear stuffiness, or ringing in the ears
If your headache is accompanied by these symptoms, then the odds are good that you have TMJ, and that a dentist is likely the best person to help you get relief from your symptoms.