You may develop a headache if you have a tooth disease. Dental problems usually lead to a tooth or facial pain. However, sometimes your dental issue may lead to headaches due to the transmission of the pain signals via nerves to the head.
The trigeminal nerve (cranial nerve V) takes sensory signals from your teeth to the brain. Any problem that stimulates this nerve in your tooth produces pain.
The trigeminal nerve has multiple branches that carry pain signals from your face, nasal cavity, and scalp. So, when a branch supplying the tooth hurts, it may end up stimulating the nerve from the scalp. Thus, leading to headache.
If you have any of the following dental condition, it may result into headache:
1. Infection in teeth or gums- such as carries, gingivitis, pus collection(abscess) etc.
2. Pericoronitis- swelling of the gums overlying the partially erupted wisdom tooth in your lower jaw. The condition leads to repeated injury to the gums causing swelling and pain.
3. Uneven bite- improper alignment of your teeth puts extra pressure on your jaw muscles.The continuous stress on the muscles to attain the alignment causes headaches.
4. Grinding of teeth- similarly, you may be in a habit to clench your jaw or grind your teeth. You may do it in day reacting to emotions such as stress. Alternatively, you may do it unknowingly while sleeping.
5. Abnormality of the jaw joint such as arthritis
6. Inconsistent usage of retainers
Long- standing headaches may force you to clench your jaw repeatedly. This may result in the grinding of teeth leading to tooth damage making it prone to dental issues.
There are some risk factors that make you prone to headache-causing dental issues.
• Poor oral hygiene- This is a common factor for the development of dental problems.
• Sugary food and drinks: excess consumption of sugary items makes you prone to dental issues. Food and drinks rich in sugar may cause acid formation when it comes in contact with bacteria. The acid damages the enamel and causes swelling of the gums and surrounding tissue.
• Age: different age groups have different dental issues. A young person between the age of 20-29 years is prone to pericoronitis. Older person is prone to develop infection of tooth or gums with growing age. Similarly, they may have arthritis of the TM joint.
• Upper respiratory tract infection involving the nose, sinus, or throat may be a risk factor.
• Emotional stress is also a risk factor for headache due to dental issues.
To diagnose if your headache is related to your dental issue, follow the below criteria:
• Presence of a dental condition- on the basis of confirmation of clinical or imaging test. You may have a problem with one or more teeth that may cause a headache.
• Association of headache with a dental condition: evidence of association by at least 2 of the following findings:
a) Development of headache in relation to the onset of the dental condition.
b) Either or both of the following:
-Headache worsening with the progression of the dental condition.
-Headache improving or resolving with improvement in the dental condition.
c) Headache worsening with application of the pressure on the tooth or soft tissue area.
d) Headache present on the same side as the dental condition.
If you have any signs that may point toward a dental disease, your doctor may refer you to a dentist.
The dentist would do to some tests to check for the general oral condition and presence of the following issues:
Any signs of infection- presence of redness, swelling, inflammation, or pus.
Presence of partially erupted wisdom tooth or gum flap.
Dentist might ask to do Xray of the teeth or jaw to check for
• Alignment of the partially erupted wisdom tooth or
• Any dental decay or abscess.
The treatment depends on the tooth condition. You may undergo the following treatment for the disease you may have:
Pain and swelling- you may take certain painkillers and anti-inflammatory to manage the pain and swelling. You may take medicine such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Your dentist may also clean the area with a numbing agent. If you develop a fever, your dentist may start you on antibiotics like amoxicillin.
Cavities: your dentists usually treat the condition by filling the cavities with a hard material.
Pericoronitis: you may need a minor surgery to remove the gum tissue overlying your wisdom tooth. Sometimes, the dentist may remove your wisdom tooth, especially if it is maligned and obstructing.
Grinding of teeth: your doctor may prescribe you a mouth guard to prevent grinding while you sleep. The guard fits over the teeth of the upper or lower jaw and prevents their rubbing.
In case if guards don’t help you, your dentist may advise a treatment to correct the bite. He may suggest braces, crowns, or oral surgery.
You may follow certain home remedies to manage the pain and swelling due to an infection. Rinse your mouth with the following things may help:
• Warm salt water.
• Oral solution containing chlorhexidine
• Diluted hydrogen peroxide
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