Headaches are one of the most common illnesses experienced by a lot of people globally. They range from minor mild and minor headaches to throbbing and continuous migraines that may affect your daily routines and productivity.
There are many causes of headaches ranging from exposure to loud noise or bright light, stress, medical conditions, and allergies. Dental problems may be another reason you have continuous and throbbing headaches that are hard to get rid of.
Headaches caused by teeth problems are classified as tension headaches because they mainly result from the tension that happens in the jaws. The nerve system then interprets that tension or pain from the jaw as a headache.
While not all dental problems could lead to headaches, some are mainly associated with them.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder is a condition that happens in the jaw muscles and surrounding nerves. It is mainly caused by injury or inflammation of the Temporomandibular Joint.
The Temporomandibular Joint acts as a connection between your jawbone and the skull’s temporal bones in front of the ears. It is responsible for allowing you to move your jaw sideways, up, and down and also allows you to yawn, chew, and talk.
The muscles of your TMJ run across your cheeks and jaw. When those muscles are hurt, injured, or suffer inflammation, that pain can travel to the entire side of your face and the top of your head. The nerves around them translate that pain into a headache.
Some of the causes of TMJ include:
- Jaw injury.
- Injury to the muscles or joint between your neck and head from incidences like whiplash.
- Stress, which causes you to tighten your jaw and facial muscles.
- Teeth grinding.
- Arthritis in the TMJ.
- Movement of the disc or soft cushion between the joint’s ball and socket.
- Poor posture.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder could be temporary or could last for a long time. It results in a lot of discomfort and pain and could happen to either one or both sides of your jaw. Women have higher chances of suffering this disorder, and it mainly affects people between 20 and 40 years.
There are many different causes of headaches, and while TMJ could be among them, it may be hard to tell if it is the real cause of your headache. However, you can tell if your headache is accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Tenderness or pain in your jaw and face near the ear or in your neck and shoulders.
- Inability to open your mouth wide.
- Feeling tired in your face.
- Popping, clicking, or grating sounds in your jaws when you chew, yawn or open your mouth.
- Swelling on the affected side of the face.
- Problems chewing.
- Ringing in the ears.
- Changes in your bite.
TMJ is mostly usually temporary, and there are some ways you can help treat or reduce it.
- Cold compress to the affected part of the jaw.
- Relaxation techniques.
- Avoid chewing on hard and chewy things.
- Over-the-counter medication.
- Massage the affected areas.
While these home remedies help manage the symptoms for some time, headaches caused by TMJ are usually hard to treat or manage permanently without having the TMJ treated. Therefore, you should see your doctor for permanent solutions.
Having a bad bite means that your teeth’ chewing surfaces are not even. That results in them not meeting on a smooth curve when you shut your jaw during chewing. Therefore, the muscles in your jaw are forced to use a lot of pressure to overcompensate to try and correct the bad bite.
That pressure results in a lot of soreness and pain, which radiates through the jaw, cheeks, and the top of your head and is translated as a headache.
Teeth grinding is another common dental problem that could result in headaches. Headaches that result from teeth grinding appear as dull pains that wrap around your head or happens behind your eyes.
The headaches happen because when you continuously grind your teeth, the muscles in your jaws and around them are under constant pressure. That may lead to soreness and even pain, which could be transmitted to the head.
Unfortunately, you may not know that you grind your teeth because it mainly happens at night. One of the main ways to tell if you grind your teeth is having chipped, broken, or damaged teeth.
You may also experience trouble closing or opening your mouth and clicking of the jaw whenever you try to move it.
Some of the causes of teeth grinding include:
- Misaligned teeth.
If you identify that your headache is associated with teeth grinding, there are some things you can do to prevent the teeth grinding habits.
- Avoid chewing on anything other than food.
- Avoid chewing hard substances or foods, and stop chewing gum during the day.
- Massage the jaws or use a hot pad.
- Avoid stress.
- Relax your jaws during the day and keep your upper and lower teeth slightly apart.
- Visit your doctor, who may recommend wearing mouthguards at night or medication.
Wisdom teeth are the last four teeth to grow, located at the back of the mouth, and they can be a cause for headaches. As wisdom teeth emerge, they exert a lot of pressure on your gum and jaw, which causes a lot of pain in that area.
That pain could be transmitted to the head and interpreted as a headache. Another way that wisdom teeth cause headaches is if they are impacted. That means that they did not grow properly, mainly because there is not enough room for them in your mouth.
That could cause them to:
- Get stuck in your haw.
- Grow at an angle.
- Push against the nearing molars.
When wisdom teeth push the nearing teeth to create more space, that could lead to a gum pouch. This is a small and painful pouch that appears because of the infection caused as the wisdom tooth appears.
To avoid the pain of chewing on the gum pouch, your jaw position and bite will change. While that could help reduce the pain, you might be causing more harm to your jaw because you might shift your jaw joint to an unusual angle.
Your jaw joints will then become swollen and painful and might be pushed against the ear muscles whenever they are flexed. That pressure and pain against your ear muscles are what spreads to your face and head, causing a headache.
You can avoid headaches related to wisdom teeth by having them removed before they fully emerge.
Also known as dental abscesses, abscessed teeth are pockets of pus, which can occur in various parts of your teeth because of a bacterial infection. The infection is not only on the tooth where the abscessed tooth is but also in surrounding teeth.
There are several nerves found in your face, and the lingual nerve in the mouth is one of them. When it is activated by an abscessed tooth, it results in throbbing pain, which is then transmitted to other parts like your cheeks and head.
Cavities, Tooth Decay, And Gum Disease
These are some of the most common dental problems, and they are also the main ones associated with headaches. Cavities and tooth decay are especially painful if they have reached the root of the teeth.
That pain caused by these diseases is transmitted to the nearby nerves and transmitted to the cheeks and the top of the head. The nerves in the head translate those pains like headaches.
Many things could lead to a tooth infection, including cosmetic dental procedures, trauma to the tooth, or the emergence of a wisdom tooth. These infections affect the teeth and the area of the gum around them, causing swelling and pain.
That pain could then be transmitted to the head, where the nerves interpreted it as a headache. Headaches caused by teeth infections could also be accompanied by dizziness because they could damage the part of the ear responsible for the balance.
Some symptoms that you may have a tooth infection include;
- Sensitivity to cold or hot things.
- Swelling in the gum and face area near the infected tooth.
- Throbbing pain on the tooth, jawbone, neck, and ear that seems to get worse after you lay down.
- Bad breath.
- Unpleasant taste in your mouth.
The first thing we think about when we experience headaches is taking over-the-counter pain medications. However, headaches caused by dental problems are only temporarily stopped by those medications, and they will come back later.
To get a permanent solution to those headaches, you need to see a dentist who will help treat those dental problems. Some of them could be treated with better oral hygiene, but some may involve taking out the tooth causing the pain.
The dentists there will accurately diagnose your problem, and they have different ways to help you get not only rid of the headaches but also attain maximum oral health.
In case the treatment involves removing a tooth partially or completely, we have different options to help you restore your natural smile.