Can Frequent Headaches Signal a Dental Problem?

Many headaches are a result of tension, vision issues, or a sinus infection. But when a headache feels like it is originating around the neck, ear or jaw, an appointment with your dentist may offer insight and solutions for much needed relief.

There are a variety of dental problems from infection, dental decay or a malocclusion that can lead to the potential for headache. [pullquote]There are a variety of dental problems from infection, dental decay or a malocclusion that can lead to the potential for headache.[/pullquote]

Infection – When a tooth becomes infected, it can lead to an abscess (a pocket or sac of infectious material) that often centers at the base of the tooth near the root. Particularly a tooth in the upper arch can radiate discomfort in the face and head.

Dental decay – Left unchecked, dental decay can lead to infection and tooth loss.

Decay and infection can be diagnosed with a visit to the dentist. A simple x-ray will identify problem areas. Treatment may call for a filling or endodontic therapy, or possibly be resolved with medication.

Malocclusion – This occurs when the top teeth are out of alignment with the bottom teeth. This can create a variety of concerns including:

  • Grinding and clenching – When the teeth don’t line up, the jaw will try to compensate usually subconsciously during sleep. The result is grinding and clenching. The grinder often has no idea this is happening unless a partner observes the action, or the dentist spots the signs of wear that accompany grinding and clenching. Stress, anxiety, and anger are just a few of the emotions that can illicit the action of grinding.
  • TMJ – An inflammation of the temporomandibular joints (the joints located just above the jaws in front of the ears) can be chronic, and can impact the face, jaw, neck, ears and head. This can occur from bruxism (teeth grinding), or any number of medical conditions like arthritis.

When a headache stems from a malocclusion, the choices are to correct the bite, with no guarantees for relief. But for a more immediate solution, your dentist can customize a mouth guard that will be designed from a material and in a style that is determined to work best for your needs.

Wearing a mouth guard will work to help you break the grinding habit during sleep, which may alleviate the extra pressure and tension created throughout the night.

If headaches persist following dental treatment, follow-up care should be pursued. Contact the office of Dr. John Withers at (940) 293-2635 for additional information and to schedule your appointment.