Headaches and links with dental malocclusion
The World Health Organisation estimates that almost half of the adult population have experienced a headache at least once within the last year. Those suffering from recurrent headaches may find that they impact their quality of life, both at home and work.
What constitutes a recurrent headache? A headache is considered recurrent if it is present for more than 15 days per month. This affects up to a staggering 4% of the world’s adult population.
There are a wide range of headache disorders from migraines to cluster headaches. Did you know that there are also headaches that can be linked to the misalignment of your teeth?
Your teeth should fit together in a natural balance within your mouth – this is what is known as a balanced occlusion. If you take a quick look at the surface of your back teeth you will see lots of lumps and bumps, known as cusps.
As your jaw moves from left to right these cusps may knock into one another, known as cusp interference. These possible interferences can mean that your jaw joint muscles have to work extra hard to move your jaw in ways that avoid these interferences.
One of the problems is that the jaw muscles become used to this movement and effectively become ‘programmed’. By using a bite guard or splint overnight it is possible to de-programme these muscles to give them a chance to relax, thereby easing the headaches and muscle pain.
These bite interferences can also lead to teeth grinding.
How do I stop my teeth grinding?
Teeth grinding, known as bruxism, can be reduced by:
- visiting your dentist to ensure there are no possible interferences (please see above)
- wearing a night mouth guard or splint to de-programme your facial muscles and keep the teeth slightly apart
- reducing stress
- allowing your muscles to relax during the day by not chewing on gum or pens etc.
- getting plenty of sleep
- staying hydrated.
A night mouth guard/splint is a clear appliance, which is usually worn on the lower teeth. The surface of the guard will be smooth meaning that the upper teeth have nothing to grind against, this allows your facial muscles to relax at night.
more information on ways to reduce bruxism.
Could a bad tooth cause my headache?
The simple answer is yes. Headaches caused by malocclusion (teeth being in the wrong place) tend to be more generalised around the head. Why? This is because the tension causes muscle pain which can result in a headache.
If a headache is caused by one decayed or damaged tooth, the headache will be far more localised to this area. You should seek immediate emergency dental advice.
What is causing my jaw pain?
Pain in the jaw can be caused by:
- a damaged or infected tooth, in this case the pain will likely be very localised
- the teeth not biting together properly (malocclusion)
- stress or lack of sleep causing you to grind your teeth
- a jaw injury.
How do I stop clenching teeth at night?
The first step is to address the issues of sleep and stress. We recommend taking time to relax in the evening and ensuring that you get plenty of sleep.
If you are unable to establish no other underlying causes, then visiting your dentist may be the best option.
If required, your dentist will be able to provide you with a clear night guard/splint to prevent your teeth from biting together. This means your jaw muscles relax at night, ensuring you wake up in the morning with minimal or no jaw pain.
Clenching teeth at night can lead not only to headaches but to damaged teeth so it is important to ensure that this issue is addressed correctly.