Suffering from headaches and neck pain?
Well, the answer may actually be linked to your mouth. “Dental headaches” stem from problems in your mouth like tooth infections, teeth grinding, or other oral issues. During your bi-annual dental visits to Stout Dentistry, we do more than just check your teeth. Dr. Stout can also help you resolve other issues in your body that initiate in the oral cavity, including headaches.
Most dental headaches are caused by built up tension in the maxillofacial region. This part of your body consists of the face, jaw, teeth, and mouth. These types of headaches are diagnosed as “referred pain,”. This simply means that while the cause of the pain stems from the teeth or mouth, the actual area of pain is elsewhere. The “elsewhere” is usually the head or neck as a tension headache or a migraine.
These headaches often go undiagnosed because of the complex nerve structure in our heads. A medical doctor may overlook dental problems as a cause for your headaches. MDs typically focus on the area of the pain rather than the origination of the pain.
Is It TMJ Disorder?
One of the most common causes of frequent headaches related to dental issues stems from TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder as a result of misalignment of the jaw, or malocclusion. The TMJ connects the lower jaw to the skull. It’s job is to open and close your mouth, allowing you to chew, talk, and yawn. Pain associated with these joints can pose symptoms in your skull, leading to tension headaches or migraines.
More common in women than in men, TMJ can be caused by trauma, disease, osteoarthritis, or teeth grinding. Whiplash from an accident or sports injury, frequent gum chewing, or holding your mouth open for long periods of time, like during a dental visit, can all trigger TMJ.
Clenching or Grinding The Teeth
A common cause for migraines or tension headaches comes from clenching or grinding your teeth, also known as Bruxism. Often, we are unaware that we are doing this behavior, as it happens during the night when we sleep or when we are stressed and focused on something else.
Most cases of clenching and teeth grinding happen unconsciously while we sleep. When you clench or grind your teeth, your jaw muscles constrain and tighten at the back of the neck, causing tension. This tension prevents the neck muscles from relaxing and the soft tissues are not able to heal properly.
Signs of Teeth Grinding or Clenching:
● Chipped, fractured, or loosened teeth
● Waking your partner during the night from the noise
● A headache when you wake up in the morning
● Rapidly wearing tooth enamel
● Tooth sensitivity
● Jaw feels tense or tired
● Pain or aches in your jaw and face
Clenching or teeth grinding can be solved with a mouth guard for either your upper or lower teeth. While this can be purchased over the counter, it’s best if you work with Dr. Stout to design a custom guard that fits your teeth perfectly. Without a proper fit, a mouthguard can make the problem worse.
Tooth Decay and Infection
Did you know a tooth infection can cause a sinus infection? It’s the culprit for 10% of all sinus infections and will cause pain around the nose and forehead. Cavities, tooth decay, or other infections can also be causing your headaches. Because these symptoms are not always detectable without a dental examination, your dentist may be the key to solving your headaches if Dr. Stout identifies an infection.
Signs of tooth decay and infection include:
● Sensitivity to hot and cold
● Swelling and pain in the mouth
● Pain while biting or chewing
If you have been experiencing headaches and can’t seem to figure out the cause, the answer may very well be in your mouth. Schedule an appointment with Stout Dentistry and we’ll check for signs of headaches stemming from the mouth. Give us a call today at 704.332.7737.