You might be asking yourself, “why is a dental office highlighting National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month”? Well, the short answer is that oral health often plays a role in migraines and headaches.
What’s the difference between a migraine and a headache?
According to Medical News Today, “headaches cause pain in the head, face, or upper neck, and can vary in frequency and intensity. A migraine is an extremely painful primary headache disorder. Migraines usually produce symptoms that are more intense and debilitating than headaches.” However, per the American Migraine Foundation, both headaches and migraines can be triggered by some of the same things, including but not limited to: stress, alcohol, overindulgence or withdrawal from caffeine, bright sunlight, dehydration, blood sugar fluctuations, and weather changes.
What does this have to do with oral health?
Oral health issues that can be treated by dentists can also impact migraines and headaches, including:
- Loose, missing or misaligned teeth: Conditions like these force jaw muscles to work harder to bring teeth together, swallow, and even keep the mouth closed. This can lead to persistent muscle inflammation that can trigger a migraine or headache.
- Tooth grinding and jaw clenching: Grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw can cause muscle and gum inflammation, which can trigger migraines and headaches. Tooth grinding is often related to stress, a “bad bite,” or teeth that aren’t properly aligned.
- Tooth decay: A throbbing toothache can trigger a migraine or headache.
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMDs): It is unclear whether TMDs cause migraines or vice versa. Either way, research shows that treating such underlying oral health issues can reduce the frequency and severity of the associated headaches and migraines.
Dentists have the experience and expertise to handle all of the above conditions, but we do recommend that people who experience frequent, severe, or new head pain speak with their primary care physician about these issues, too. PCPs can work with patients to understand the root cause of the pain and develop a plan to manage it. If oral health plays a role in the pain, doctors will then refer patients to a dentist who specializes in head pain.
We do know that oral health plays an important role in conjunction with overall health, so it’s important to maintain regular appointments with all of your health care professionals. If you have any questions or concerns about any type of mouth pain, feel free to contact us; we’re here and happy to help!