Did you know frequent headaches are often treated more effectively by your dentist than your doctor? Many experience pain caused by what are known as “dental headaches.” This pain can be from light to severe, sometimes resulting in migraines, and ranges from being occasional to being a daily occurrence.
If you are a headache sufferer, you know how life-disrupting they can be. Finding the right solution and getting relief from pain has been life-changing for many. Could the solution to your headaches lay with your teeth? Find out by reading about these three main causes of dental headaches and their symptoms.
Dental headaches are caused by what is known as “referred” pain. Even though the cause of your pain may be your teeth, you might actually experience the pain as something like a tension or a stress headache. Stress headaches can feel like a tight band around your head that gets worse and worse.
Because many focus on just the local area of the pain, the actual cause of the pain can be overlooked. Usually, people experience dental headaches because they have a tooth infection caused by decay, TMJ disorder, or because they grind their teeth. How would you know if you are experiencing any one of these dental issues?
Tooth decay and infection
You may have a tooth infection and not even be aware of it. Some signs to look for are:
- Sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures
- Tenderness or swelling
- Discomfort when biting or chewing
Typically, headaches caused by tooth infection are felt on the same side as the infected area. If left untreated, a dental infection can become serious and spread. Tooth infections cause 10% of all sinus infections, which usually cause pain around the nose and forehead.
Since tooth decay or infection may be below the gumline and not obvious to the naked eye, it’s important to have your dentist examine your teeth. If an infection is found, your dentist can fix the problem and along with it, your headaches!
TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder is caused by a malocclusion or misalignment of the jaw (bite). It’s been estimated that nearly 20 million Americans suffer from TMJ related headaches.
TMJ headaches often go undiagnosed because they are often misidentified as stress headaches. Headaches caused by TMJ disorder might be felt on one or both sides of the temple area and cause pain in the jaw, neck, and shoulders. TMJ related headaches affect women (8 to1) more than men and they usually begin between the ages of 20 to 50.
Along with headaches, other symptoms that indicate you might have TMJ disorder are:
- Pains in the neck, cheeks or jaw
- Clicking or popping sounds from the jaw
- Having trouble chewing or swallowing
- Being unable to fully open up the mouth
Many dentists offer TMJ treatments which will help you find relief from the headaches and pain. These treatments may involve fixing an uneven bite by reshaping the teeth or with orthodontic treatment, or splint therapy with a mouthguard to prevent jaw clenching.
Many people unconsciously clench or grind their teeth, usually while they sleep. Your jaw muscles tighten when you grind or clench your teeth and the pain from your jaw travels to other places causing headaches or, in severe cases, migraines.
How can you know if you grind your teeth at night? Here are some things to look for:
- Waking up your bed partner because of the noise caused by grinding your teeth
- Teeth that are getting chipped, fractured, or loosening
- Tooth enamel that is being quickly worn down
- Increased tooth sensitivity
If tooth grinding is the culprit behind your headaches, your dentist can provide effective therapy using a mouthguard or nightguard that will protect your teeth and relieve headache-causing pressure on your teeth and jaws.
Finding the cause is the cure
The only way to arrive at an effective cure for headaches is to be able to correctly identify the cause. Talking with your dentist about your headaches and their possible cause may help you find the answer to your headache pain you’ve been looking for.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.