How frequently this question comes to your mind “Can a Toothache cause a Headache?”. Do you frequently deal with both a toothache and a headache? Are you silently keeping the annoying pain to yourself? Is this uncomfortable pain keeping you awake day and night? Are you wondering if the two symptoms are related? Yes, a toothache can cause a headache!
Your toothache might be triggering your headache. Until it is treated, the pain and headaches caused by toothaches can impact your daily quality of life by making it difficult for you to focus on your regular everyday tasks. So, don’t remain silent with this pain and get professional help to figure out the many possible reasons for this.
Why Do Toothaches Cause Headaches?
Headaches are the most common form of pain increasingly reported among adults worldwide.
Toothache and headache are more closely related than you think. Almost all headaches and toothaches are detected through the same trigeminal nerve- the largest sensory nerve in the head providing nerve supply to the external face, scalp, jaw, teeth, and much of the intra-oral structures. Pain in any one branch of this nerve can activate pain in other branches of the nerve triggering a headache. Sometimes, muscle clenching and jaw tightening can eventually lead to headaches, as well.
If an underlying tooth infection is left untreated, a patient’s tooth’s condition and discomfort will continue to grow worse and may also develop a recurring migraine, a throbbing one-sided severe headache associated with nausea or vomiting.
Possible reasons for a headache
There can be multiple causes for this headache and its severity can range from mildly annoying to severely painful. Each of the following dental conditions causes a headache.
1. Headaches Caused by Dental Damage or Advanced Dental Decay –
If conditions like cavities, cracked/fractured teeth, tooth decay, advanced gum disease, or impacted wisdom teeth are left untreated may cause pain and soreness, including headaches or migraine. If a cavity is to blame, then a tooth-colored filling or a root canal therapy is recommended for tooth infections. If the tooth is damaged, then it could require a dental crown to restore and protect it.
2. Headaches Caused by Improper Dental Work by Professional –
If a tooth filling, a crown, veneer, teeth alignment using braces, or any other restoration is not executed properly following the patient’s bite, it can trigger off a chronic, nagging headache. In such cases, your dentist needs to re-do it to restore the condition. Complications from root canal treatment may result in headaches and even feelings of dizziness or vertigo.
3. Headaches Caused by Bruxism (Teeth grinding) –
Many people who routinely grind or clench their teeth especially at night unknowing called Bruxism. Sometimes a person can have a worn-out tooth causing a shift in the jaw in an uncomfortable position, thus putting a lot of pressure on their teeth leading to muscle ache, toothache, or migraines. Building the teeth back up or re-shifting the jaw position helps to get some relief from migraines.
4. Unerupted third molar –
Your third molars, or wisdom teeth, can cause discomfort, including headaches, when they’re moving up through your jawbone and emerging from your gum line.
5. Headaches Caused by Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) –
Headache can be triggered by the pain that starts in the joints that connect the sides of your jaw to your skull. This joint helps you open and close your mouth when you talk, eat, and yawn. Unequal bite due to problematic tooth of any side leads to dysfunctional T-M joint. And the pain around those joints and muscles can travel to your skull causing chronic headaches in people.
If your headache has been identified to be linked to TMJ issues, your dentist or an orofacial pain specialist will identify the cause and rectify it to relieve jaw pain and thereby, relieve your headache.
6. Headaches Caused by Trigeminal Neuralgia –
Trigeminal Neuralgia is a pain disorder resulting from compression or damage of the trigeminal nerve causing sudden attacks of excruciating pain almost always only on one side of the face or along the upper or lower jaw.
Sometimes it is mistaken for suffering from an abscessed tooth that causes moderate to severe pain, which can even radiate to your ear or neck. If left untreated, abscessed tooth pain can graduate into a severe, life-threatening condition.
Home Remedies and Lifestyle Choices to get Relieve from Headache Pain
Here are the home remedies:
- Rinsing your mouth with salt water is a powerful healer that can kill harmful bacteria, prevent infection and promote healthy gums
- Taking an aspirin is effective is potent at reducing pain
- Applying an ice pack to your cheeks can help reduce pain, soothe inflammation
- Using heat pads can loosen tense muscles and improve blood flow to the area
- Applying essential oils (for example, peppermint oil, clove oil, aloe vera oil, lavender oil/ thyme oil /oregano oil) not just soothe pain and reduce inflammation but also provides a cooling effect to your skin when you touch it.
- Using crushed garlic and ginger is the most effective killer of pathogens that invade and infect the gum line.
Here are the lifestyle choices you can make:
- Avoid chewing gum.
- Don’t chew on your fingernails, lips, cheeks, or other objects like pens.
- Use a hands-free device while speaking on phone to keep pressure off your head and jaw.
- Avoid sticky or crunchy foods that put pressure on your jaw.
- Restrict foods that need big bites like hamburgers or cut the apple into smaller pieces.
- Try to relax your jaw.
- Keep your upper and lower teeth apart during the day.
As recommended by the American Dental Association:
- Brush teeth twice a day with fluoride-containing toothpaste.
- Eat a healthy diet that is low in extra sugars.
- Floss every day, preferably before bed a night.
- Use a low-alcohol antimicrobial mouth rinse.
- Quit or avoid smoking.
In a nutshell
Thus, a toothache can cause a headache and is worrisome for a diversity of reasons. However, many of the reasons for toothache-related headaches are easily preventable. Whatever is causing the pain, we don’t want you to just live with it.
Since determining the root cause of the toothache and headache can be a complicated and challenging process, it is it’s always important to seek medical attention from a healthcare provider to carefully examine and diagnose the underlying root cause of the pain.
Once the root cause of the pain is diagnosed, you can move forward with a simple or complex treatment plan. Simply taking painkillers as aspirin will only temporarily eliminate pain caused by toothaches and headaches, they won’t fix the root problem.
The sooner such toothache and headache-related issues are solved, the better the quality of life.