Headaches and Dentistry

Serving Patients in Oklahoma City, Edmond, Lawton, and Norman, OK

If you suffer from chronic headaches, you know how frustrating they can be, not just for the pain itself, often disabling, but because it is often impossible to determine the exact cause of your headaches. Doctors will offer solutions, but these often do not work because the cause of your headaches is dental.

This page contains some background information on the dental problems that often result in headaches, but the best way to learn whether dental problems are responsible for your headaches is to schedule an appointment with a dentist. Please call 405-622-8996 to contact Terry Bass, DDS today. Dr. Bass serves patients in Edmond and surrounding areas of Oklahoma.

How Dental Problems Cause Headaches

It is often hard to determine the exact cause of headaches, but there are several known mechanisms by which dental problems lead to headaches:

  • Muscle tension
  • Impinged nerves
  • Referred pain

In many cases, all three mechanisms work together to result in several different types of headaches, including migraines. Receiving dental treatment can result in a significant reduction in the frequency and severity of headaches.

Muscle Tension Headaches

Your muscles are designed to work as a team. Facial muscles, neck muscles, and jaw muscles ideally work harmoniously with one another, but if you have an imbalance in the jaw system, sometimes referred to as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or TMD), other muscles may be affected. Over the thousands of daily combined actions (swallowing alone calls on your muscles about 2000 times a day), imbalances in one system are transferred to the others. Once this transfer occurs, you may experience episodic or even chronic tension headaches. Tension headaches can also trigger migraine headaches.

Treating bite issues can help reduce the frequency of tension headaches, as well as tension-triggered migraines.

Impinged Nerves

This is another possible cause for dental-related headaches. In TMJ, overactive or poorly aligned muscles can put pressure on a number of nerves, including the trigeminal nerve, one of the principal channels for sensory input to the brain. The trigeminal nerve is also the origin of migraine headaches, as it releases neuropeptides that travel to your brain's outer membrane, the meninges, resulting in pain.

TMJ treatment can help reduce the frequency of migraines even if they are triggered without the mediary of tension headaches.

Referred Pain

As with telephone systems, it's possible for your nervous system to get its signals crossed. In this case, you may feel the pain as a headache, but it isn't actually a headache. Instead, it's a toothache that your brain thinks is a headache. There are many theories about why this occurs, but referred pain is common among the different branches of the trigeminal nerve (which takes pain signals from the jaw, face, and forehead). One common example of referred pain is the ice cream headache, technically known as sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. Several researchers have proposed that the ice cream headache is referred pain from the mouth, resulting in a perception of headache pain.

In the case of referred pain, treatment of dental problems is the only possible solution to reduce the frequency of headaches.

Tit for Tat

It's worth noting that sometimes headaches result in tooth pain. Referred pain, of course, can result in headaches being mistaken for toothaches just as easily as the reverse. However, there are several possible mechanisms for headaches to cause actual toothaches.

The sinuses are very close to the tooth roots in upper molars. People who experience sinus congestion or swelling can suffer from associated toothaches.

Sometimes, tension headaches cause people to clench their teeth. Clenched teeth can result in soreness in the teeth and jaw, as well as many common cosmetic dental problems like poor bite, worn teeth, and cracked teeth.

If you suffer from chronic headaches, it's important to talk to a dentist about the problem to make sure you are treating the root cause for true relief. If you live in the Edmond, Oklahoma area, please contact Dr. Terry Bass online or call 405-622-8996.