Having a toothache and a headache at the very same time is undeniably uncomfortable — but it might not be a coincidence that these issues are happening in tandem.
According to Dr. Charles Sutera, DMD, FAGD, a board-certified dental anesthesiologist and aesthetic smile specialist, there are two reasons why your teeth can contribute to headaches.
What you think is a headache might be what's called referred pain from your teeth.
"The primary nerves that collect sensation of the upper and lower jaw also handle sensation of other parts of the head," Dr. Sutera says. "Therefore, when there is pain in the teeth, such as from inflammation or infection, the pain can refer along the nerve to other parts of the head."
Other spots that commonly experience referred pain from the teeth include the area around the eyes and the sides of the head.
If you're experiencing the dull discomfort or pressure of a tension headache, it could be a sign that there's an issue with your bite.
"Although it may not be obvious, there are numerous muscles on the sides of the head that function to open and close the mouth," Dr. Sutera says. When there are issues with the bite, such as a tooth being too tall or issues with the alignment of the top and bottom teeth, it can create strain on the muscles on the head. The muscle tension creates tension headaches."
If you think your teeth might be the cause of your headaches, Dr. Rhonda Kalasho, DDS, of Glo Modern Dentistry, suggests turning to your dentist for confirmation.
"Sometimes sinus infections can give you a headache that makes you feel as though it is your tooth, when the sinus infection is just causing pressure on the maxillary teeth," Dr. Kalasho says.
Dr. Sutera agrees that speaking with your dentist is key for confirming your toothache/headache link.
"Speaking with your general dentist is a good place to start. Sometimes the headache may be a simple fix, like adjusting the shape of a recently placed filling. However, if your headache issues are more complex, your dentist may refer you to a TMJ specialist for further evaluation."
You can also reach out to your doctor for advice on addressing your discomfort.
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