Headaches & Your Teeth

Do you experience prevalent headaches, and for no reason? Have you endured chronic headaches for a long time? Seen multiple doctors with no results? Taken pills, had massages, or undergone surgery with no end in site?

If you have headaches, migraines, eye pain, jaw pain, facial muscle pain, stiff neck, or shoulder aches – these symptoms may actually stem from your teeth! Keep reading to find out how your chronic headaches are linked to your jaw, and what treatment we can offer to help.

When Medical Help is Needed

Chronic headaches & migraines are noted as one of the most common issues plaguing North America today. Approximately 40% of all seemingly healthy individuals suffer from persisting headaches. The severity and how often these symptoms are occurring can be so prominent that it may inhibit the average individual from going about their daily life. Headaches have the ability to affect a person’s ability to carry out basic tasks, socialize, and stay vital throughout the day.

Note that immediate medical attention should be sought if onset of headache or migraine symptoms leads to weakness of an arm or leg, result in loss of vision, disorientation, or loss of consciousness.

Did you know that muscles in your head and neck are influenced by your dentition? A bad bite – or in other words, a misalignment between your top and bottom jaw – will impact the degree of muscle strain experienced by your jaw joint. Some chronic headache sufferers could also be suffering from jaw-related issues.

When are Chronic Headaches a Dental Problem?

The movement of our jaw joint is less noticeable than the movement of our elbows or knees; often we are completely unaware of when & how it is being used. Is it surprising that the most frequently used joint is jaw joint? It is used every time we talk, chew and swallow.

When muscles are active for long periods of time they begin to ache and spasm. Headaches related to your jaw are a type of muscle tension headache. Pain from a tension headache may occur on one or both sides of your head. The pain feels like a dull, non-throbbing ache. Tension headaches are usually relieved by aspirin, but will reoccur after the medication wears off.
Specific signs indicating that your headache may have a dental origin:

  • Pain behind the eyes
  • Sore jaw muscles or “tired” muscles upon awakening
  • Being a teeth grinder or clencher (can occur during awake and/or nighttime hours)
  • Clicking or popping of one or both jaw joints upon opening of mouth
  • Limited jaw movements and opening
  • Head and/or scalp painful to the touch
  • Jaw Position and Headaches

When the lower jaw is not in the ideal position, it can lead to various symptoms: clicking noises, “locked” jaw, joint-pain, headache, stiff neck and shoulder aches. People with jaw joint problems normally grind their teeth during sleep or clench them together during the day, which can result in hypersensitivity, ground-down or broken teeth and gum recession.

The good news is that through non-invasive procedures aimed at repositioning the lower jaw, we are able to provide relief of jaw joint symptoms for most patients. We have been successfully helping patients eliminate agonizing jaw joint problems for over 20 years!

Tired Jaw Joint Muscles

The muscles which control your jaw and hold your head upright are very complicated. Many of us don’t realize that each time we swallow our upper and lower teeth must come together – to brace the jaw against the skull. We swallow over 2000 times each day and night! If your bite is unstable, as from poorly aligned teeth, the muscles must work harder to bring the teeth together. The overworked muscles become strained. When muscles are under constant strain, they eventually become painful.

Muscle Imbalance

Your head weighs approximately 15 pounds! Imagine your head as a baseball balanced on top of a pencil by a number of rubber bands. Now imagine shortening just one of those rubber bands. Some rubber bands would stretch, some would shorten, and the baseball would be thrown off kilter!

Similarly, when muscles are tense, they shorten in length. When even a single jaw, neck, or shoulder muscle tightens, other surrounding muscles are forced to overcompensate in order to maintain the balance of your head. In the case of chronic head, neck and shoulder pain with a connection to your jaw, the root-cause is muscle imbalance stemming from the jaw joint – usually because of an unstable bite.

The overall pain & discomfort you feel cause you to become even more tense and uptight. This increased tension in your upper body worsens the muscle strain, which in turn, feeds the muscle imbalance which causes the pain in the first place. This is why such conditions become chronic.

Dental Treatment

If you suspect that your headaches might be caused by your bite, contact us for a consultation appointment. We will examine your teeth, related muscles, and your jaw position. Then we offer a treatment plan to correct your bite by placing the lower jaw in a more comfortable position so that the muscles surrounding your jaw joint can function without the extra strain and tension.
Counselling or relaxation training may also be beneficial in teaching you ways to relax the jaw joint muscles and also identify sources of emotional stress which cause you to over-stain them.

Remember though, it is only the corrected function of your jaw joint that will ultimately relieve the chronic nature of the ailment. Achieving a correct dental bite is a major factor in ensuring optimal health over time. Health is your most priceless possession – it is worth the investment!

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Doctor of Dental Surgery