The Headache Trigger You Haven't Considered
Few things can ruin your day faster than a bad headache.
And while you probably blame common triggers like hormonal fluctuations and weather changes, you may be overlooking one of the sneakiest culprits: dental problems.
Believe it or not, what’s going on in your mouth can trigger headaches in your sinuses or temples -- and sometimes, the opposite is true as well. “The nerves to the face are tightly compacted and bunched together in the brain,” explains Dr. Mark W. Green, director of headache and pain medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. “So you might think that pain is coming from the sinuses, for example, but it may be referred pain from a tooth.”
Consider these four common examples of the complex relationship between dental issues and headaches:
If You Suffer From … Migraines
It could be: a jaw joint problem
Dysfunction of the temporomandibular (aka jaw) joint can spark temple pain and migraines -- and perhaps vice versa too. In a recent study, researchers from Brazil found that people who suffer from episodic or chronic migraines are twice as likely to have tenderness in the muscles used for chewing and in the jaw joint as non-migraine sufferers. Treating one disorder may help improve the other.
If You Suffer From … Headache in Temples
It could be: tooth grinding
A teeth-clenching habit can leave pain in your temples, says Green. Engaging in stress-management or relaxation techniques or biofeedback may help ease the grinding and clenching. If you tend to clench at night, try wearing a bite guard to minimize the effects of tooth grinding. “It won’t prevent clenching or grinding, but it can equilibrate the bite so it reduces muscle spasms that can lead to headaches, and save the enamel on the teeth,” says Green.
If You Suffer From … Sinus Pain
It could be: an oral infection
Infections in the teeth or gums in the upper part of your mouth can cause pain in the maxillary sinuses (in your cheeks) and even behind your eyes, notes Green. Treating these infections with antibiotics should put an end to the pain.
If You Suffer From … Mouth and Cheek Pain
It could be: cluster headaches
“Cluster headaches [which tend to occur in groups over weeks or months] are a brain problem, yet they commonly present with pain in the upper teeth and cheek,” says Green. Preventing or treating these headaches with medications -- such as calcium channel blockers, anti-seizure drugs, triptans, ergotamine preparations, or others -- can usually ease tooth and cheek pain too.
If you suffer from frequent headaches, talk to your doctor -- but don’t rule out mentioning it to your dentist either.
Photo Credit: @iStockphoto.com/btoldi
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