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Headache Won’t Go Away? The Problem Could Be Your Teeth
Posted By: Staff Writer

Headache Won't Go Away? The Problem Could Be Your Teeth


Americans are known for having lots of headaches.


In fact, about four out of every 10 Americans experience recurring headaches, though they feel healthy otherwise. One in eight Americans have chronic headaches so severe as to be debilitating.


No other pain problem is more widespread among Americans than headaches.


This is something that can interrupt your work, studies, or home schedule, and you’ve likely attempted numerous remedies to alleviate the situation.


However, there’s probably one that you never even thought about: have you considered that your teeth may be at fault for your headaches?


What Dental Problems Have to Do with Headaches


About 80 percent of chronic headaches are caused by tense muscles. Muscles that are held tight for prolonged periods begin to feel achy, and tight muscles in your jaw can result in headaches.


These types of tension headaches may occur on either side of your head or feel like they are wrapped around it. They typically feel like a low-level, dull pain that does not throb, and over-the-counter pain killers are usually sufficient to relieve the pain.


How can you tell if your headache truly has its origin in your mouth? You might notice the following symptoms:


  • Jaw joints that click or pop
  • Jaw muscles feel sore in the morning upon waking
  • Evidence of grinding teeth
  • Painful scalp or head when touched
  • Pain behind eyes
  • Pain in cheeks
  • Pain in teeth or an individual tooth

Your bite can be the source of your headaches and pain. When you close your jaw to swallow, your upper teeth must meet your lower teeth firmly to keep the jaw properly aligned. Since we swallow more than 2000 times per day, it’s essential to have a well-formed bite or pain can result.


If you have a missing tooth or teeth that are out of alignment, your jaw muscles must use more effort to bring the upper and lower teeth together. The extra strain on your jaw muscles cause pain, which turns into a headache.


Jaw Pain Can Continue to Radiate Out Past Your Head As Well


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That’s right. Jaw pain can radiate out to other areas of your body, like your neck and spine.

Your jaw muscles are connected to your neck muscles. If your jaw muscles are working extra hard due to the situation previously described, your neck muscles may have to overcompensate. This radiates pain to your neck, which may also cause tense muscles in your back.


Before long, you may be complaining of neck and back pain in addition to your frequent headaches!


Your body could be stuck in a painful loop, when pain triggered by your bite is picked up by the trigeminal nerve, the largest nerve in your head. This nerve will transmit the mouth pain along the muscles in your face, then send it to your neck, and issue it to the muscles in your scalp. Head pain can trigger more jaw pain, which starts the cycle all over. This can lead to chronic headaches.


Teeth Can Be the Culprits, Too

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Another reason you may experience headaches from a mouth problem is if you have a damaged tooth. A throbbing or sharp pain in your mouth can transform into a headache.


You may, for example, have a tooth with an exposed nerve, and cold foods can irritate it. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to seek dental care immediately so the tooth can be repaired and bacteria prevented from entering your bloodstream and causing serious problems.


How a Dentist Can Help


A skilled dentist will be trained to know if your bite or a missing tooth is causing your headaches. They will perform an exam of your jaw, neck muscles, and teeth to evaluate whether the pain source is in your mouth. If that proves true, your dentist will recommend courses of treatment to correct your bite.


If the source of the problem is determined to be bruxism, your dentist will fit you with a custom dental appliance. This rubbery insert prevents you from grinding your teeth at night, and will soon relieve the morning pain you’re experiencing. Also, it will protect your teeth from further enamel erosion, which can lead to periodontitis and other serious dental problems.


Your dentist may also recommend other physical therapy or chiropractic treatments to alleviate neck and back pain and realign your spine.


If you experience a headache with any of these symptoms, waste no time in seeking emergency care to rule out a life-threatening illness like a stroke or brain aneurism:

  • Unprecedented, completely debilitating pain
  • Weakness or numbness in extremities
  • Vision problems
  • Loss of orientation
  • Fainting or blacking out

Think that your headaches may be related to a mouth problem? Schedule a dental appointment today.