Is There a Dental Connection with Headaches?

Is There a Dental Connection with Headaches?

Jul 01, 2020

If you are suffering from a toothache and a headache simultaneously, you may wonder whether both are related in some way. Your toothache could be triggering your trouble, or maybe the two are indicating signs of an underlying health problem like a TMJ disorder or a sinus infection.

This blog is looking at some connections between toothaches and headaches and what they mean for your care.

Toothaches Can Trigger a Migraine

A toothache has many reasons, which could be cavities, cracked teeth, impacted wisdom teeth, and other conditions. When these issues are not treated, you can develop a migraine often on one side of the head that is associated with vomiting, nausea, or sensitivity to light and sound. If the condition of your oral health is triggering a migraine, it will become crucial for you to seek treatment for the underlying issue before worrying about the headache.

Tooth Problems Referring Pain to Your Head

Tooth decay or advanced periodontitis can also refer pain to the head, just like a migraine. In simple terms, it means that you begin feeling a painful sensation in a different part of your body from the painful part. This is because of the many nerve connections connecting the teeth and other structures of the face to the brain.

Many patients are seeking emergency dental care for migraines or tension-type headaches when, in reality, they are experiencing a dental issue. For example, bruxism causes referred pain to the head. Bruxism is a condition when people grind and clench their teeth when sleeping. The resultant headache from bruxism is reported as dull pain wrapping around the head or occurring behind the eyes. Sore teeth and jaw muscles, trouble opening and closing the mouth, or clicking sounds in the jaw joint is familiar with this condition.

In rare conditions, an untreated dental issue can turn into a severe life-threatening infection known as cavernous sinus thrombosis, causing severe headaches usually behind the eye or the forehead. Other symptoms associated with cavernous sinus thrombosis include swelling in the eyelids, protrusion of the eyeball, high fever, and weakness of the eye movement.

Underlying Health Issues Causing Headaches and Toothaches Simultaneously

Some conditions can cause headaches and toothaches simultaneously but are not related to dental or primary headache disorders. It could be:

TMJ disorder

A temporomandibular joint disorder referring to a problem with the jaw joint located in front of the ear and the muscles surrounding it is a condition commonly observed by dentists because it causes toothaches. TMJ disorders can also cause headaches, which are usually described as an aching pain beginning near the ear and moving towards the jaw, neck, or temple. These headaches are generally a result of jaw motions like opening and closing the mouth or chewing.

Trigeminal Neuralgia

Irritation of the trigeminal nerve results in disorder known as trigeminal neuralgia. The disease causes excruciating shock-like facial pain on one side of the face. The pain is felt along the upper or lower jaw in most cases, which is one of the reasons why people visit their dentist initially to understand whether they are suffering from an abscessed tooth. It is quite common for a patient to undergo multiple root canals or extractions before they receive a diagnosis of trigeminal neuralgia.

What Do Simultaneous Toothaches and Headaches Mean?

If you are suffering from a new headache or toothache, do not ignore the problem but make it a point to see your doctor as soon as possible. Identifying the underlying issue can be tricky even for healthcare providers, and therefore your persistence will help in sorting out the problem. It is recommended that you visit the Wenatchee dentist if you have undergone dental procedures for toothaches without finding relief because it is reasonable to discuss with your primary care provider before visiting a specialist. Your dentist may refer you to a headache specialist, neurologist, or an ENT doctor to have your condition diagnosed.

Ultimately getting to the bottom of your toothache or headache can be challenging and tedious. However, you can rest assured that you can move forward with the treatment plan after being diagnosed by your doctor. The method may be as simple as some antibiotics for a sinus infection or getting a cavity filled. It may also require wearing an occlusal device like a nightguard and other methods to avoid grinding and clenching your teeth.

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