The surprising connection between headaches and oral health

The surprising connection between headaches and oral health

Jan 12, 2022

Purple Flower

1 in 6 adults suffer from recurring headaches or migraines and for many, the pain can severely impact quality of life. While many internal and external factors cause brain pain, studies show a strong link between recurring headaches and poor oral health. The intricate network of nerves, muscles, and joints in the head and neck region means that disruptions in one area can reverberate throughout the system. Below we dive into the most common oral health issues that could be the culprit behind your recurrent headaches and migraines.

Consequences of poor oral health

Toothache

The trigeminal nerve is one of the biggest nerves in your head and provides sensation to almost the entire head, face, and mouth. When a toothache happens, regardless of the reason, it can irritate the trigeminal nerve and trigger headaches and migraines. This can also occur inversely where a headache will cause pain in the teeth and gums.

Wisdom teeth

Wisdom teeth are the final teeth to grow out in adults, sometimes they appear in only the upper or lower row of teeth, and for those of us that are lucky, they do not appear at all. Most of us are familiar with how painful they can be when they begin to surface, pushing the existing teeth, and causing them to move and shift. These movements can cause stiffness, swelling, difficulty breathing, eating, speaking, and —you guessed it, headaches.

TMJ

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder or TMJ, is a condition affecting the joint connecting the jaw to the skull. TMJ often manifests with symptoms like jaw pain, clicking or popping sounds, and limited mouth movement. These issues can radiate pain to the surrounding areas, causing tension headaches and, in severe cases, triggering migraines. Another common consequence of TMJ is bruxism or, the clenching or grinding of the teeth.

Bruxism

Bruxism, characterized by the grinding or clenching of teeth, is a common oral health concern. The excessive pressure and strain on the jaw muscles during bruxism episodes can lead to tension headaches and in severe cases migraines. Stress and anxiety, medications, genetics, smoking, and sleep conditions are all common seeds of bruxism. Understanding and addressing the root cause of the condition is crucial in preventing the associated headaches.

Malocclusion

Malocclusion, or misaligned teeth, can create stress on the jaw and surrounding muscles. This chronic stress may contribute to headaches, as the muscles attempt to compensate for the misalignment. Orthodontic interventions like clear aligners to correct malocclusion can alleviate associated headaches.

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