The Association Between Headaches and Temporomandibular Disorders is Confounded by Bruxism and Somatic Symptoms

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Objectives:The objective of this observational study was to establish the possible presence of confounders on the association between temporomandibular disorders (TMD) and headaches in a patient population from a TMD and Orofacial Pain Clinic.Materials and Methods:Several subtypes of headaches have been diagnosed: self-reported headache, (probable) migraine, (probable) tension-type headache, and secondary headache attributed to TMD. The presence of TMD was subdivided into 2 subtypes: painful TMD and function-related TMD. The associations between the subtypes of TMD and headaches were evaluated by single regression models. To study the influence of possible confounding factors on this association, the regression models were extended with age, sex, bruxism, stress, depression, and somatic symptoms.Results:Of the included patients (n=203), 67.5% experienced headaches. In the subsample of patients with a painful TMD (n=58), the prevalence of self-reported headaches increased to 82.8%. The associations found between self-reported headache and (1) painful TMD and (2) function-related TMD were confounded by the presence of somatic symptoms. For probable migraine, both somatic symptoms and bruxism confounded the initial association found with painful TMD.Discussion:The findings of this study imply that there is a central working mechanism overlapping TMD and headache. Health care providers should not regard these disorders separately, but rather look at the bigger picture to appreciate the complex nature of the diagnostic and therapeutic process.

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