Which came first – the headache or the toothache? If it’s the latter, there is a perfectly logical explanation for both.
In fact, if you are a frequent headache sufferer, you may want to consult your dentist as well as your doctor. That’s because there is a definite interconnectivity between the orofacial (mouth, jaws and face) and craniocervical (skull and neck) systems as it pertains to pain besides their anatomical proximity.
You see, headaches and toothaches both transmit through the trigeminal nerve. It’s the largest sensory nerve in the head supplying the external face, scalp, jaw, teeth, and most of your intraoral structures.
When one of your teeth becomes inflamed, the nerve endings cause the pain to relay to other parts of your head. And if the pain originating in your tooth is chronic or lingering, it is even more likely to activate other branches of the nerve and trigger a sequence of painful episodes that eventually lead to a full-blown headache.
Not only that, but reflexive behaviors caused by your pain, such as muscle tightening or jaw clenching, can make the discomfort worse and transfer that pain. For example, when you clench your teeth you inadvertently contract your neck muscles and the tension in your teeth can also cause jaw muscle pain. By the same token, when you have a chronic toothache, it can also cause bracing in the jaw muscles and neck leading to a headache.
This correlation is why it is sometime difficult for your primary doctor to determine the cause of your headaches, whereas a dentist with the ability to recognize where orofacial pain comes from can put his finger on the problem and treat it effectively.
Generally speaking, headaches don’t have physical symptoms – they are a symptom. So, diagnosis is related to the history and pattern of your pain. That’s why if someone is being treated for a migraine, and medications or other treatment prescribed by your doctor aren’t effective, you’ll often be referred to a dentist for evaluation of teeth and jaw joint problems. Getting to the root of the problem (no pun intended) by determining if your headaches are a symptom of a dental condition can solve the headaches for good.
There are temporary ways to relieve headache-causing toothaches such as chewing on a clove of garlic or gargling warm saltwater if the pain is related to gum disease. Other short-term remedies include lime or lemon juice, onions, or additional vitamin C sources, as well as over-the-counter pain-relieving gels or numbing solutions.
However, persistent headaches stemming from chronic toothaches should be addressed by a professional. The friendly staff at Dedicated Dental is qualified and equipped to deal with your pain. We’ll find the source of the problem and recommend an effective treatment plan that will put an end to your discomfort and leave you or a loved one with a picture-perfect smile. If you have any questions about our family and cosmetic dentistry services and would like to schedule an appointment or consultation, please call us at (702) 551-5199. You can also request an appointment online.