A newly published study shows that people with migraines are twice as likely to suffer from Bell’s palsy. The connection between these two conditions helps illuminate the link between TMJ and migraines, and how TMJ treatment can lead to such effective migraine relief.

What Is Bell’s Palsy?

Bell’s palsy is an infrequent partial loss of nerve function in the 7th cranial nerve, called the facial nerve, which carries signals to many areas of the face. There are many potential causes of Bell’s palsy. It can be related to an infection that causes the facial nerve to swell in its narrow bone channel through the skull–the Fallopian channel–resulting in irritation of the nerve. It’s also sometimes a complication of dental procedures, including the use of dental anesthesia.

Because of the complex nature of the facial nerve, Bell’s palsy can result in a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Twitching, weakness, or paralysis, normally on one side of the face
  • Drooping of the eyelid
  • Dry eye
  • Dry mouth
  • Drooping corner of the mouth
  • Drooling
  • Impaired taste
  • Excessive or unexplained tears
  • Jaw pain
  • Tinnitus
  • Sound sensitivity
  • Ear pain

Treatment of Bell’s palsy may involve treatment of the specific cause (such as infection), but more commonly specific symptoms are addressed individually. Sometimes prednisone or other steroids are recommended to reduce swelling of the nerve and therefore lead to symptom relief. In other cases, the condition is mild and will subside on its own in a couple weeks.

The Link between Migraine and Bell’s Palsy

The new study was conducted in Taiwan, using data from the country’s healthcare system. It looked at more than 136,000 people with neurologist-diagnosed migraine and age-matched controls for an average of 3.2 years. During the follow-up period, 671 migraine sufferers developed Bell’s palsy compared to only 365 controls. Analysis revealed that migraine sufferers were 1.91 times more likely to develop Bell’s palsy than the control group.

This is the first time this link has been established.

What This Means for Migraines and TMJ

The link between migraines and Bell’s palsy is an important one for TMJ sufferers, because it shows again that migraines are associated with peripheral nerve disturbances. Linking migraines with disturbance in the facial nerve as well as the trigeminal nerve lends more support to the theory that controlling peripheral nerve disturbances through TMJ treatment can reduce the risk of migraines.

If you would like to learn whether your migraines might be linked to TMJ, please call (803) 781-9090 for an appointment with a Columbia, SC TMJ dentist at Smile Columbia Dentistry.