Is There a Link Between Poor Dental Health and Headaches?
Recurring nagging headaches and pounding migraines can wreak havoc on your quality of life. Just ask the roughly 39 million people in the U.S. (and 1 billion worldwide!) who suffer from migraines. While migraine and headache causes can vary from stress to diet to other external factors, there is increasing evidence that persistent headaches may be linked to certain oral health problems. That’s right….headaches and dental health could be related.
If you are experiencing frequent headaches, here is why it is a good idea to consult your dentist…
Oral Nerve Pain and Headaches
Toothaches and headaches share something in common — the trigeminal nerve, which is one of the largest nerves in the head. It provides sensation to the teeth, gums and your entire face. If you have a toothache, the trigeminal nerve is triggered and pain can radiate throughout the face and into the head. Cavities and dental infections that are left untreated can irritate the trigeminal nerve, leading to headaches.
Tooth damage caused by a cracked, chipped or broken tooth can also trigger severe nerve pain. If tooth enamel is damaged, the exposed nerve endings are more susceptible to heat or cold, which can trigger pain. That’s why it’s crucial to see your dentist regularly and contact your dentist right away if you experience any type of accidental tooth trauma.
Oral Muscle Strain and Headaches
While many underlying health issues can cause tension headaches, dental problems can cause muscle strain between the jaw and mouth. This results in pain that travels to the head and throughout the skull. Common dental culprits that cause tension headaches are persistent clenching of the jaw and teeth grinding, also known as bruxism. Many of us do this unconsciously while asleep or under stress. Relaxation techniques and bedtime rituals such as meditation or soaking in the tub before bedtime can be effective in alleviating stress-related teeth grinding or clenching. Your dentist may also recommend wearing a mouthguard to prevent grinding or clenching during sleep.
TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder) is another common dental problem that occurs when the joints that connect your upper and lower jaw don’t align or function properly. TMJ results in clicking, popping and jaw joint pain that escalates into migraine headaches. Treatment for TMJ initially involves pain relievers and muscle relaxers but your dentist may also recommend a mouth guard or suggest corrective oral surgery in more severe cases.
Wisdom Teeth and Headaches
Wisdom teeth usually make their appearance during the late-teen years. However, impacted wisdom teeth don’t have room to erupt to the surface of your gums and can only be detected during a dental X-ray. If you have symptoms such as swollen or bleeding gums, swelling around the jaw, sudden bad breath, or — you guessed it — persistent headaches, be SMART about consulting your dentist or oral surgeon about wisdom teeth removal. Extraction of the wisdom teeth usually provides an easy fix with quick relief for the majority of patients.
Head-Off Headaches with Good Dental Habits
Practicing proper oral hygiene is an effective way to prevent some of the common dental problems that lead to headaches. Here are some tips to help protect your smile and preserve your overall health!
- Brush, floss and rinse daily (ideally 2-3 times per day)!
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and replace it regularly
- Eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet
- Try to reduce sugar intake and avoid hard, chewy foods
- Limit alcohol and caffeine
- Wear a mouthguard during contact sports
- Incorporate stress-relievers into your daily routine
- Schedule (and keep!) your dental appointments
Don’t suffer in silence when it comes to headaches! Contact the Dr. E Cosmetic and Family Dentistry team to see if dental problems may be the root cause of your headaches. We’re always here to help! 480-494-2435