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HeadWay, Issue #024 -- Jaws: Don't let yours scare you
July 21, 2005

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In this month's issue:

Jaws: Don't let yours scare you

More than just a headache

Say what?! Aphasia

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Jaws: Don't let yours scare you

Jaws. We eat with them, we talk with them, and with them some of us get headaches.

Tension headaches can come from tension and pain in the jaw, particularly the TMJ, or temporomandibular joint. Worse, the tension can trigger migraine attacks, and cause other problems. Do you think your headaches may be coming from a sore jaw?

What's causing the pain?

There are a number of things that can cause problems. Often it's several things at once, which is one thing that makes treatment very difficult. For example, it could be a problem with your bite - the way your teeth are lined up or spaced. This is known as tooth malocclusion. This may simply mean you need to have your teeth worked on, to give you a more even bite. But it might not be that easy. Dr Gregory White (BDSc(Melb) MDSc(Melb) LDS) from Australia writes:
Often, however, the degree of unevenness of the bite is more complex or may not be readily discernible and it is necessary to undertake treatment with an occlusal splint to restore normal, relaxed muscle activity before it is possible to determine the proper closing pattern of the jaw.

This is where splints come in. There are upper splints and lower splints, some to be worn during the day and others only at night. This may be inexpensive or expensive, and it may completely solve a headache problem or not. But hopefully it will help your dentist get a better idea of what the problem is.

This may or may not mean there is actual damage to the joint, as is the case with technical TMJ syndrome. If your problem is with grinding your teeth or clenching, a splint may help.

Many people who have not been helped with a traditional splint are trying alternatives such as the NTI-tss device (that is, the Nociceptive Trigeminal Inhibition Tension Suppression System). I personally use one of these. It's far smaller than a traditional splint, fitting over the front two teeth only. Many patients find that a traditional splint just encourages another kind of clenching, but the NTI-tss is designed to keep clenching from happening. Clinical trials have been positive, and this device is now used in many countries specifically for migraine.

In rare cases, TMJ surgery may be needed. But be aware that there are now many alternatives to surgery - it is only needed in very rare cases. Do your research before you let someone talk you into this last resort.

For more reading:
Tooth Malocclusion
The $5 solution
Dr White's article
NTI-tss official site

More than just a headache

Wouldn't it be great if we could not only help ourselves when it comes to headaches, but help others?  I've been thinking for a while about how could do more.  As I thought, I realized that there are two main things the website focuses on.  First, the fact that we need to be educated about headache and migraine types and treatments.  Second, that we need to fight back, through whatever lifestyle changes and treatments are available.  So where is education and medical help needed?  Many places, of course.

But there's one country that stood out to me.  In 1999 it made the top of the UN's list as the worst country in the world.  In this country, life expectancy is less than 43 years.  Almost 15% of babies never make it.  Literacy is 31%.  And yet this isn't a country you hear about daily in the news.  I'm talking about Sierra Leone, West Africa.

There are workers there trying to help.  One such group provides the two things I'm looking for - education and medical help.  The organization is known as International DOVE - DOVE standing for Development, Education, and Vocational Education.  International DOVE works primarily with children, attempting to rescue them from the street and help them build a better future for the war-torn nation.

Here's the plan.  If there's any profit made from this website, a percentage will go to the work of International DOVE.  You'll also be seeing more about what's happening in Sierra Leone, and you'll hear about other ways you can help, on the website and in Headache and Migraine News and in this newsletter.

I've come to know some of the folks at International DOVE over the last few months, and have become impressed by the uphill battle that they continue to fight.  It's more than just a headache - it's hopelessness and despair and death.  If you're interested, you can contact their office and donate today.  Visit the International DOVE website for more information.

Say what?! Aphasia

Aphasia occurs when you have trouble speaking, difficulty finding words, difficulty forming words, or even difficulty understanding words that you should know.  This has nothing to do with a loss of intelligence.  Most people think of this in connection with stroke or head injury.

But people with migraine can also experience aphasia, especially in the prodrome stage (before the headache phase of the attack).  Aphasia (sometimes misspelled aphaysia) is sometimes present in those dealing with Familial Hemiplegic Migraine, which shares many symptoms with stroke.

Read more:
Familial Hemiplegic Migraine
Speak ability website on aphasia
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