Do you often wake up with a pounding headache? Do you suffer from headaches throughout the day?

Believe it or not, chronic headaches are often caused by your teeth! Well, not your teeth exactly, but rather your bite (how your teeth come together) and the way your jaw is positioned.

If you’ve tried traditional diagnoses and come up short, you may need to consider a dental solution. Keep reading to learn the jaw dropping facts about how your dental health can cause severe headaches and more.

The link between dental health and headaches

Your mouth is a complex system and plays a huge part in your whole body wellness. When it’s not functioning as it should, your mouth will set off alarms throughout your body. One such alarm is a headache. 

A dental headache can be the result of a few different issues, but the root of the problem is almost always malocclusion.

What is malocclusion?

Malocclusion is when your upper and lower teeth don’t fit together correctly. In a perfect world, your teeth should fit together without any spaces or crowding issues. Your upper jaw’s teeth should overlap just a bit with your lower teeth. 

When your bite doesn’t work like this, it can cause a lot of problems, including headaches!

Malocclusion is sometimes caused by smaller cosmetic issues. For instance, crowded teeth, incoming wisdom teeth, or poor dental work in the past. But if you’re suffering from serious headaches, chances are you have a bigger issue on your hands. The three most common are:

  1. TMJ disorder
  2. Bruxism
  3. Sleep apnea

You might also be suffering from a combination of these! Let’s take a closer look.

1. TMJ Disorder

The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are located at the base of your skull in front of your ear on both sides. These joints connect your lower jaw to the upper jaw and work in conjunction with your muscles, ligaments, discs, and bones to allow for the opening and closing action of your mouth.

The problem is your TMJ can be a little sensitive. These joints will often become inflamed, injured, or poorly positioned, causing problems for the normally smooth motion of your jaw. The result is TMJ disorder (also called TMD).

Common causes of TMJ disorder

The primary cause of TMJ pain is stress.

When you’re feeling stressed, your body reacts in different ways. Stress can affect things like your muscles, your skin, and your sleep. Your TMJ is the only joint in your body that can register this stress, too.

Tension in your body causes these joints to tense up, too. You may find that you’re clenching your jaw at night or even during the day. 

Other causes of TMJ include:

  • Joint disc dislocation or erosion can lead to TMJ issues. Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in your TMJ can also be a cause.
  • Accidents, sports injuries, or traumatic injuries can damage your TMJ joint, including the bone, muscle, or cartilage.
  • Your TMJ may become misaligned or thrown out of place. Missing teeth or a crooked smile can also cause extra stress to the muscles surrounding the jaw, causing TMJ.
  • Lifestyle factors like poor posture or too much chewing on gum can also cause pain in your TMJ. 

Signs you might have TMJ disorder

In addition to frequent headaches, there are other tell-tale TMJ disorder signals to watch for:

  • Tightness in your jaw, even when you’re not eating or talking
  • A popping or clicking noise when you open, close, and move your mouth
  • Stiff muscles in your face, neck, and back
  • Difficulty sleeping or pain in your jaw when you wake up
  • Earaches 

While an over-the-counter pain-reliever may help many of these symptoms, your headaches will not go away until you address the root of the problem!

2. Bruxism

Bruxism — also called tooth grinding — is when you unconsciously clench and grind your teeth together. This most often happens while you’re sleeping, but can affect some people during the day, too. The majority of people don’t even know they suffer from bruxism!

What causes bruxism?

Unfortunately, the true cause of bruxism is relatively unknown. However, like TMJ disorder, many believe the biggest instigator of this disorder is stress. Other factors that are believed to be at play include:

  • Alcohol
  • Anxiety
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Caffeine
  • Snoring
  • Sleep apnea
  • Fatigue

The trouble with tooth grinding

Bruxism is notorious for causing severe headaches. You’ll usually experience these headaches right when you wake up. These headaches often feel like a strong tension headache around your temples.

Other common bruxism symptoms are:

  • Tight and painful jaw muscles
  • Tight neck
  • Pain in your face

Bruxism is more than painful, it can also cause major dental issues like gum recession, broken fillings, enamel loss, and flattened and damaged teeth.

3. Obstructive sleep apnea

Mallocollusion can cause a form of sleep apnea called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). This disorder is when a person stops breathing for dozens (or even hundreds) of times at night. 

Those with mallocollusion issues are at more risk for OSA because the structures in the back of their mouth and throat can become more easily closed off.

Common symptoms of sleep apnea

You’d think you’d notice if you stopped breathing in the middle of the night, but the majority of people have no idea! Chronic headaches in the morning and throughout the day are a common symptom that something is amiss at night.

Also be on the lookout for:

  • Snoring at night
  • Drowsiness throughout the day
  • Restless sleep
  • Waking up with a sore or dry throat

Treating headaches with a dental solution

If your headaches are the symptom of a dental health issue, there are a number of treatments available to stop the problem at the source. Some common treatments might include:

  • Nightguards (oral appliance) — Worn like a retainer or mouth guard, a night guard or oral appliance works to keeps your airway open all night long and can also keep you from clenching or grinding your teeth together. 
  • CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) — This device is the most common treatment for sleep apnea. Worn over your face at night, it gently adjusts your lower jaw, opening your airway and preventing obstruction.
  • Botox — Dental botox is a great solution to help reduce muscle pain as a result of TMJ or tooth clenching and grinding.

Your dentist may recommend a combination of these treatments to get you the best result. Other non-dental related treatments might also include physical therapy or relaxation techniques like yoga or massage.

Let’s put an end to your dental headaches

If you are suffering from chronic headaches or any other symptoms mentioned in this blog post, you owe it to yourself to talk to a dentist. You don’t need to live in pain any longer. Ignoring the issue can cause a lot of problems for your overall health and wellbeing.

At Cedar Village Dentistry, Dr. Dooley will help stabilize your bite, putting your mouth in a relaxed position. From sleep apnea devices to Botox, we have a range of treatments to help resolve your dental headaches. Working together, we’ll create a personalized plan to treat your symptoms and resolve the root of the problem.

Get in touch today.