Headaches are one of the most significant problems which affect the US population. Did you know that one in eight Americans suffers from severe headaches which affect their daily life routine? It has been estimated that about 40% of individuals, who are otherwise healthy in all respects, still suffer from chronic headaches.
However, not all headaches are migraines. Most headaches develop as a result of an underlying dental problem. The American Academy of Craniofacial Pain (AACP), says the reason behind 80% of cases of headaches is muscle tension and resultant spasm. This article explains the link between headaches and our dental health, and how they can be avoided.
Dental Health and Headaches; Is There is Link?
Yes, there is a link. In addition to the vicinity of the teeth and oral structures to the head, there are also other factors which create a connection between the headaches and the dental region.
- Similar Nerve Supply – the largest sensory nerve in the head, the trigeminal nerve, carries sensation from our scalp, facial region, jaw, teeth, and other oral structures. Therefore, if pain arises in one of the branches of the trigeminal nerve, it can activate pain sensation in other regions supplied by other branches of the same nerve as well.
- Bad Bite – in cases when the upper and lower teeth do not meet properly, there is an uneven distribution of force on the teeth when the mouth is closed. As a result, some teeth receive more pressure than others. This pressure is transmitted directly to the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) and puts a strain on the muscles of the face and scalp, ultimately resulting in their spasm and causing a headache.
- Improper Jaw Alignment – proper alignment of the jaws is not only essential for cosmetic reasons, but it is also necessary for having optimal dental function and tooth occlusion. When the jaws are not aligned properly, this can create stresses on the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) during opening and closing of the mouth and can cause a headache.
- Bruxism – this is a condition in which the individuals tend to grind their teeth excessively, either during daytime or during sleep. This habit can lead to improper occlusion and alignment of the teeth, resulting in a bad bit. This creates undue pressure on the Temporomandibular joints on one or both sides, leading to spasm of the facial and scalp muscles and causing a headache.
- Dental Treatment – If you have a headache after having a tooth filling, it may be because of the “high-spots” created by an overfilled cavity. This means that the affected tooth will come into occlusion well before the other teeth. As a result, there will be excessive pressure on the opposing temporomandibular joints causing pain in the impacted tooth and headache due to straining of the facial and scalp muscles. The management of this problem is straightforward. Your dentist will remove the high-spot, and the toothache and headache will go away.
When to Seek Dental Help?
Generally, headaches caused due to dental reasons are easily managed by removing the underlying cause. You should consult your dentists if you observe any of the following symptoms:
- Uneven bite
- Flattening of teeth
- Tooth sensitivity
- Pain on biting
- Clicking or popping sounds from the jaw
- Headache or spasm of facial muscles after eating
How are Headaches Due to Dental Causes Managed?
Headaches have become quite common in the US population. It has been estimated that about 80% of US citizens suffer from chronic pain due to muscular tension in the dentofacial region. The good news is that these headaches can be easily managed, mostly by treating or removing the underlying cause.
Dental Restorative Treatment – to remove high-spots which can cause temporomandibular joint disorders and headaches.
TMJ Therapy/ Bite guards – to treat temporomandibular joint disorders and to prevent damage caused due to excessive tooth grinding.
Orthodontic Treatment – to correct tooth misalignment and improper jaw positioning.
Maxillofacial Surgery – required in cases where jaw misalignment cannot be corrected through orthodontic treatment.
Headaches are terrible, and sometimes unbearable. If these headaches are caused due to dental reasons, they can be easily prevented. If you or some you love is having a headache, you must contact your physician or dentist immediately so that it can be managed timely.