Cure your toothache to get rid of your headache

woman-closing-eyes-touching-cheek-back-her-head-while-suffering-from-terrible-tooth-ache

Written by Dr. Palak

August 18, 2021

A toothache and a headache simultaneously can disrupt your daily schedule. Many of you would have experienced this painful ordeal. Sometimes you may even develop a fever and have a foul-smelling pus discharge in your mouth. The reason behind all these complications might actually be just a decayed tooth or your teeth grinding habits which you might not even be aware of. This might even trigger your migraine. Even the eruption of your wisdom tooth can be linked to headaches.

 How this develops and what are some simple measures you can take to prevent this?

Can tooth infections cause headaches?

Headache from a toothache? Yes, these are responsible for headaches and majorly present as a decayed tooth, swelling of the gum, fractured tooth, or an unerupted wisdom tooth. An impacted wisdom tooth is one that has not erupted or partially erupted due to a lack of space in the jaw. Now this tooth can push the adjacent teeth which lead to soreness and pain radiating to the head and neck region. The partially erupted tooth is also prone to decay and gum infections like abscesses since it is difficult to clean.

All of these conditions may lead to the formation of an abscess which is a collection of pus formed due to bacterial infection. This abscess is mostly visible on the gum as a  shiny, reddish enlarged area which on pressure exudes a salty foul-smelling liquid just like a pus boil on the skin. Sometimes it may not be visible as it may be present inside the jaw bone near the tip of the root (this can be seen mostly on the x-rays)

In such cases the decayed tooth or cracked tooth is the source of entry of bacteria inside the tooth, resulting in the damage of nerves and blood vessels.

You’re more likely to develop these if you smoke, have a dry mouth,  maintain poor oral hygiene or have a weakened immune system like in the case of diabetes or under chemotherapy or steroid medications.

How to spot a dental infection?

Here are some signs to look out for:-

  • An intense throbbing tooth pain that may worsen gradually or have a sudden onset
  • Pain radiating to the ear, jaw, head, and neck on the same side as the affected tooth
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold food and drinks
  • Pain that worsens on lying down may disturb your sleep
  • Bad breath or unpleasant taste in your mouth

A dental abscess is an emergency situation and demands immediate treatment from your dental surgeon. If left untreated, the infection may spread further involving the jawbone, soft tissues of the face, and neck leading to sinusitis (inflamed tissues lining the sinus cavities) and in rare cases traveling to the brain causing meningitis and to the heart causing endocarditis (infection of the heart muscles).

Hence it is imperative to get a consultation from your dentist as soon as you spot a symptom. Depending on the clinical condition of the tooth, antibiotics, and painkillers will be prescribed before going ahead with the treatment.

Stress induced teeth grinding and clenching

This is also one of the reasons how a tooth is related to headache. Most people tend to grind their teeth during stressful situations at home or during work. This habit is similar to the nail-biting habit.  It mostly occurs in people with higher levels of anxiety and depression. Clenching and grinding of teeth often go unnoticed as these occur subconsciously or while sleeping. While doing so the jaw muscles tend to get tensed resulting in headaches and pain in the neck region.

So how will you know if you have a tooth grinding or clenching habit?

Look out for these-

  • Chipped, fractured or loosened teeth
  • Fractured dental restoration
  • Tooth Sensitivity
  • Wearing of teeth (flattening of teeth) resulting in teeth to appear more yellow than white
  • A headache when you wake up in the morning
  • Jaw and neck region all tense and sore

Although Bruxism is not a life-threatening disorder, it affects the jaw joint severely and the resulting pain is troublesome. Hence, your dentist will help identify the cause and treat the necessary ailments. Your dentist may suggest you wear a night guard at night, which also prevents friction between the teeth and prevent flattening of teeth (attrition).

woman-has-sore-ear

Jaw joint and muscle discomfort

The temporomandibular joint is the one that connects your lower jaw to the skull and is responsible for chewing, yawning, talking, and all other movements. Pain in this jaw joint can be extremely uncomfortable.

The source of the pain is not clear in most of these cases since it has a multifactorial origin. Improper chewing and weird positioning of the jaw, long hours of relishing chewing gums, and habits like nail biting exerts pressure on the jaw joint leading to pain. The pain is due to excessive strain on the joints and muscles during these actions.

Even improperly made dental restorations like fillings, crowns, bridges, etc. Can exert a considerable amount of force on the joint. So next time you feel any discomfort after a dental appointment, consult your dentist right away.

Injuries to the jaw, head, or neck region may also trigger this disorder. Arthritis and displacement of the joint discs can also precipitate this pain. 

Look out for symptoms of jaw pain:

  • Clicking or popping of the jaw (a click sound when you close or open the mouth)
  • Locking of the jaw (not being able to move the jaw )
  • Limited range of jaw movements (updown or side to side movements of jaw)
  • Headaches
  • Jaw discomfort or soreness (usually present in the morning or late afternoon)
  • Pain spreading to the eyes, face, shoulder, neck and back
  • A change in the way upper and lower teeth fit together
  • Tooth sensitivity in the absence of an oral disease
  • Ear aches or ringing in the ears

Now such a wide range of problems need effective management by your dentist and orofacial pain specialist. Treatments include pain medications, relaxation techniques like meditation, stress management, physiotherapy, posture training, diet changes, ice and cold therapy, botulinum injection, orthopedic appliances, also surgery in certain cases.

Wrecking havoc-Trigeminal neuralgia

It is a nerve disorder resulting in one of the most excruciating pain known to humanity. But the reason how it develops still remains a mystery. Most mundane actions like shaving, touching your face, eating, drinking, brushing, smiling, or washing your face can trigger a sharp shooting pain. Even a little breeze on your face can initiate this havoc.

Reaching the dentist and finding out the real cause of your headache is important. Not treating the root cause will cause repeated headaches and you will never be able to find the answer to your WHY?

Preventive measures to get rid of toothache and headache

  • Maintaining your oral hygiene should be your topmost priority to avoid dental infections.
  • Include floss threads or water jet flossers and mouthwashes to completely get rid of the plaque and bacteria.
  • Regular 6 monthly visits to your dentist or tele consulting your dentist once in a while can help you diagnose the dental problem at the earliest.
  • Teeth grinders and clenchers, take it easy! Your mental health can affect your teeth too! See a dentist if you are having trouble sleeping and waking up with a headache. 
  • Get your maligned teeth fixed as they do affect your jaw joint.
  • Do not chew on a chewing gum for more than 10-15 minutes. Practice jaw exercises to release jaw joint discomfort.

Highlights

  • Most of the times a toothache is the reason for your headache, even migraines.
  • The decayed tooth in your mouth is the source of all infections leading to pus discharge, foul smelling breath, fever and headache.
  • Night grinding and clenching due to stress or anxiety is pervasive due to which you  suffer from morning headaches.
  • Pain radiating to the head, neck, eyes and the back? Not able to open/close your jaw? There is definitely some problem with your jaw joint.

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Dr Palak Anand is a qualified dental surgeon from Pandit BD Sharma University of Health Sciences, Rohtak. A passionate public health enthusiast , an ingenuous empathetic human being who wants to bring about a change in the perception of oral health by leveraging the power of knowledge and a globally connected world. She believes in spreading awareness and educating people in the fight against poor oral health status globally.
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