Everything from the weather to hormones can trigger migraines, but did you know that dental issues can also cause migraines?
According to the Migraine Research Foundation, a billion people globally suffer from migraines. Though some use the words migraine and headache interchangeably, headaches are actually symptoms of migraines. Headaches can be unpleasant, are generally short-lived, and can cause a steady aching sensation at your temples, the back of your neck, or your forehead. By contrast, migraines often cause severe pain or throbbing sensations on one or both sides of your head for a longer period or on a recurring basis. Other symptoms migraine sufferers experience include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, facial numbness, facial tingling, and sensitivity to sound or light.
Several things can trigger migraines, including the weather, certain medications, hormones, lifestyle factors, and environmental factors. But did you know that dental issues can also cause migraines?
Dental Issues That Might Be Causing Your Migraines
Sometimes, dental issues might be responsible for your migraines or worsen your migraine symptoms, making it easy to confuse migraine with dental pain.
A toothache caused by untreated cavities, impacted wisdom teeth, or cracked teeth may be the culprit behind your migraine. Your fifth cranial nerve, also known as the trigeminal nerve, is responsible for providing sensation to your teeth, gums, upper lip, and lower lip. It’s also linked to chewing and biting. If a toothache irritates one of your trigeminal nerve branches, you may develop a migraine.
Referred Tooth Pain To The Head
It’s entirely possible that your nerves are playing tricks on you and you’re feeling pain in your head due to tooth decay or advanced gum decay. Named referred pain, this misperception of pain is caused by the trigeminal nerve, which connects parts of your face to your brain. The nerve connections work both ways, so it’s possible to experience pain in your teeth — even if you don’t have any dental issues — as a result of pain originating elsewhere.
Often caused by stress, muscle or nerve diseases that affect the face, or misaligned teeth, bruxism — or the grinding and clenching of your teeth — is an example of referred pain to the head. Grinding often occurs during the night, though some individuals may also grind their teeth throughout the day.
Headaches caused by bruxism may be felt behind the eye or around the head and are often described as a dull pain. Bruxism is often accompanied by sore or tight jaw muscles, cracked teeth, morning headaches, and difficulty opening or shutting the mouth.
Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis
If left untreated, dental conditions can potentially cause cavernous sinus thrombosis. Individuals with this life-threatening infection usually experience severe headaches felt in their forehead or behind their eyes. High fevers, swollen eyelids, eyeball protrusions, and weak eye movements are also symptoms of cavernous sinus thrombosis.
Underlying Health Issues
Some health conditions cause headaches and toothaches — even though they aren’t linked to dental issues or headache disorders.
- Sinus Infections: Sinus infections are never fun. Between nasal congestion, ear pressure, discharge, fever, and fatigue, you can feel pretty low when you have a sinus infection. You may also experience both a headache and tooth discomfort. Headaches caused by sinus infections are often located near the infected nasal cavity and become more severe if you bend forward.
- Trigeminal Neuralgia: This pain disorder causes extreme, often one-sided facial pain that’s triggered when the trigeminal nerve is irritated. As a result, simple actions like chewing, talking, or touching your face can cause brief but severe pain. Unfortunately, because people often experience this stabbing or shock-like pain in their upper and lower jaw, trigeminal neuralgia’s symptoms are commonly mistaken for those of an abscessed tooth, and many people receive entirely avoidable tooth extractions or root canals.
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorder: Your temporomandibular joint connects your jawbone and skull, sliding and rotating to allow you to move, open, and close your mouth. Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (also known as TMJ and TMD) is a musculoskeletal disorder in which the temporomandibular joint doesn’t function properly. As a result, it can often cause toothaches, headaches, earaches, popping sounds, and sore jaw muscles. Found in the jaw joint and nearby muscles, TMJ is often a result of jaw motions, such as chewing, opening your mouth, and closing your mouth. Headaches caused by TMJ often start near your ear and move toward your jaw, temple or neck and result in aching pain.
Home Remedies To Alleviate And Prevent Orofacial Pain
Some home remedies that have proven effective for dealing with migraines, tooth pain, or orofacial pain include:
- Taking over-the-counter painkillers: Taking an over-the-counter painkiller like aspirin or ibuprofen can help alleviate pain caused by migraines or dental issues. These non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs help shrink any inflamed blood vessels, providing relief from many symptoms.
- Getting enough sleep: Often overlooked, getting sufficient sleep is essential, as not getting enough sleep can result in dental issues and make you more prone to headaches and migraines. If you feel a migraine coming on or are dealing with one, try to lie down in a dark room.
- Drinking water: Drinking more water throughout the day is a simple but effective way to alleviate orofacial pain. Dehydration is a common trigger for headaches and migraines, so consuming enough water can reduce your risk of experiencing a migraine and lessen a migraine’s severity. Staying hydrated is also a preventative measure for orofacial pain caused by dental issues. Drinking water throughout the day will not only keep you hydrated but will also help combat dry mouth and loosen food particles from your teeth. Fluoridated water will strengthen your enamel, helping you avoid future decay and any accompanying dental problems.
- Taking a magnesium supplement: Increasing your magnesium consumption helps your body absorb calcium, which can strengthen your teeth. Studies have also found that taking magnesium supplements can reduce the frequency of migraines.
When To See A Professional
If you’re suffering from a toothache, erupting wisdom teeth, cavities, bruxism, or any other dental issue, make an appointment with your dentist. From fitting you with an anti-grinding mouthguard to offering cavity treatments, there are many ways your dentist can help you if you have orofacial pain.
Whether you have dental issues or migraines or not, it’s important to visit your dentist twice a year. Not only will they thoroughly clean your teeth, but they will also notice any early signs of decay or other dental problems. If you live in the San Diego area, visit Espire’s office in La Mesa, California. Contact us today to schedule your appointment!