When a person has a headache day after day after day, it really makes life hard. Just getting to work becomes a problem. Concentrating on the details of their job becomes nearly impossible. All they can think about is getting relief.
There are lots of simple reasons people get headaches. Maybe they are dehydrated and just need to drink. Maybe they skipped breakfast, or they stayed up too late at night. Many times people need to have their eyes checked.
One thing people don’t think about is their teeth. Even though they haven’t made that connection, there is a good case for toothaches causing headaches.
The most common way that toothaches can cause headaches is from muscle contractions in the face, jaw, and neck. Many headaches from dental issues are muscle tension headaches.
Usually, a tension headache that starts in the mouth is a dull pain on one side of the jaw. The person is not able to pinpoint which particular tooth is causing the pain, it’s just overall discomfort. After this goes on for a while, the pain radiates up into the head on that side.
Bruxism is just a fancy word for teeth grinding. Many people unconsciously grind their teeth when they are asleep. Some dentists believe this is from mental stress, other dentists believe there is no actual bodily reason for teeth grinding.
If a dentist examines the teeth and sees the teeth are worn down from grinding, he can prescribe a tooth guard. This plastic device is worn in the mouth overnight and keeps the teeth from getting ground down. With time it can reduce the headaches associated with muscle tension.
Some theories say that sleep apnea is what causes teeth grinding. Sleep apnea means the person is not getting enough air when they are sleeping because the tissues in the throat relax so much that they obstruct the airway.
The idea here is that people are moving their jaw back and forth unconsciously trying to get more air into their bodies. So treatment for bruxism and for sleep apnea may be needed to fix the headaches.
Clicking Jaw Joints
When a person opens or closes their mouth, that action should be silent. However, if opening or closing the mouth makes clicking or popping noise, this noise signals another reason for a tension headache caused by the teeth.
This clicking noise points to a condition called TMJ: temporomandibular joint pain. Although there are many theories about the cause of this condition, the result is that the muscles in the jaw are overworked and this causes the head to hurt.
The pain from TMJ disorders can be so severe that it is often misdiagnosed as a migraine. It is worth the time to see a dentist if a person is experiencing headaches. If this goes on for a long period of time eventually the neck begins to hurt also.
The dentist will check your bite to make sure teeth are lined up properly. Often a person will lose a tooth from decay or infection and they don’t want to get the tooth replaced.
The other teeth will slowly move into the open space making all the other teeth misaligned and causing TMJ pain.
“Wisdom Tooth Headache” happens so often that dentists are not surprised when it does. Wisdom teeth often are impacted. This means that the tooth does not have room enough to grow and is sometimes stuck halfway out of the jaw bone.
Also because of the space issue, the roots of wisdom teeth are often twisted and growing in odd ways. A difficult extraction can leave the mouth inflamed and painful, which in turn makes for a huge headache.
Root canal surgery is a tricky business. If anything goes wrong it will leave the patient with a lot of headache pain.
Sometimes the roots of a tooth are very curved and the dentist might accidentally poke through the side of the root. Then the root has to be filled and it is hard for the dentist to tell if they are putting in too much filling, or too little filling material. With all the things that can go wrong, it is not surprising for a patient to have a headache afterward.
Certainly, the most frequent reason for toothaches causing headaches is because a tooth has become infected.
Errors in root canals can cause infection, difficult wisdom teeth extraction can cause infection, tooth decay that is not treated will cause infection.
Cause or Effect?
Sometimes is hard to tell if toothaches are causing headaches or the headaches are causing the teeth to hurt.
Many times a person might have a headache that is due to a sinus infection. Although it’s not a toothache, the sinuses cavity is directly on top of the upper teeth. The infection in the sinus cavity will certainly cause the teeth to ache when there is nothing wrong with them.
Many people like to chew crunchy foods. If that person doesn’t have really strong teeth they may end up cracking or breaking a tooth. If the inner tissues of the tooth are exposed, this can result in immediate severe pain.
The inner tissues of the tooth contain blood vessels and nerves. Anyone who has ever had an exposed nerve knows how overwhelming the pain can be.
Having a toothache from a cracked or broken tooth can most certainly bring on a headache.
Because of all the nerve connections in the face and teeth and jaws, even something like gum disease can cause headaches. When the gums are inflamed from periodontal disease, the pain can be referred to the rest of the head. Referred pain means pain that shows up in a separate part of the part away from the part that is actually causing the pain.
Seeing all these reasons for toothaches causing headaches, it may be a challenge to figure out what is causing the pain.