About 50 percent of adults worldwide experience some type of headache at least once a year, and 4 percent of the global population suffers from a headache at least 15 days a month. However, many of these patients may never realize that dental health can cause or worsen their headache symptoms.
If you find yourself struggling with unexplained headaches, you may need to have your teeth or jaw evaluated for any underlying conditions that may be affecting your pain. Explore three such problems that can play a role in acute or chronic headaches.
Any tooth damage that exposes sensitive nerve tissue can cause headache. However, this pain may not be limited to the affected tooth. Pain in the nerve core of the tooth can travel along the trigeminal nerve to other areas of the head, resulting in a sensation similar to a classic tension headache.
In some unlucky individuals, nerve pain from tooth damage can trigger a more severe headache known as a migraine. Migraines can cause intense, throbbing pain on one side of the head. They can also produce a wide variety of symptoms, such as light or sound sensitivity, nausea and vomiting.
A cracked, broken, or severely worn tooth should receive prompt professional care, not only to protect against infection and improve function, but also to prevent or alleviate pain. Permanent crowns can cover and protect damaged enamel, protecting the nerve tissue from unwanted stimuli and preventing additional damage.
2.Infections and Abscesses
In addition to triggering nerve pain, a broken or decayed tooth can also develop a painful bacterial infection. The bacteria invades and destroys the sensitive pulp chamber of the tooth, causing symptoms such as pain, fever and swelling. It can also invade the jaw, causing an abscess.
Diseased nerve tissue can transmit pain to the face or head as easily as acute damage to tooth enamel. An abscess in the upper jaw can also cause an acute sinus infection that causes debilitating sinus or migraine headaches. Other complications can range from major organ infections to meningitis.
Fortunately, you can avoid the worst of these complications by treating the bothersome toothache as quickly as possible. Root canal treatment can save even a severely infected tooth, while antibiotics can clear any infection in the surrounding tissues. As the infection recedes, your headaches will also decrease.
Unconscious grinding or clenching of the teeth can cause chronic headaches. Known as bruxism, this problem usually occurs during sleep. Emotional stress and problems with alignment between the upper and lower teeth can tire the jaw muscles, erode tooth enamel, and even cause teeth to break.
Tooth damage from bruxism can transfer nerve pain from the teeth to the face and head. Meanwhile, tension in the jaw muscles can cause pain that radiates from these muscles to your head, resulting in tension-type headaches associated with TMJ.
Bruxism can also contribute to sleep apnea, a condition in which you briefly stop breathing multiple times each night during sleep. Sleep apnea can lead to oxygen deprivation and changes in blood vessel diameter, causing morning headaches; this is a common problem among those who suffer from this condition.
Your dentist can help you get rid of bruxism-related headaches. You may need to wear a special night guard to reduce jaw tension and enamel wear during the night. Night guards that keep your jaws in a healthier alignment can also reduce sleep apnea and help you avoid annoying morning headaches.
If you suspect that your headache problem is actually caused by a dental problem, you can start looking for a solution. Contact us to schedule an evaluation and learn more about dental treatment for headaches.