Most people, including yourself, are familiar with the all-so-annoying toothaches! That throbbing and extremely uncomfortable pain that keeps you awake at night or creates a constant sense of discomfort throughout the day is one thing people don’t forget. Many a time, you may be suffering from a headache at the same time as a toothache and it is very common to wonder if your toothache and headache are related. Let’s read on to know how tooth pain causes headache. Yes, a toothache can cause a headache!
Common Causes of Toothache
Before we move on to understand how a tooth and headache are related, we must know the various causes of toothaches. Toothaches are the most common dental condition that people visit their dentists. They can occur due to multiple reasons such as –
- Cracked or fractured teeth
- Cavities in teeth due to decay
- Exposure of the pulp due to injury or decay
- Exposed roots
- Tooth abscess
- Severe sensitivity in teeth
- High or improperly done tooth fillings
- Clenching or grinding of one’s teeth either at night or throughout the day
Any and all of these causes of a toothache can trigger a headache.
Why Do Toothaches Cause Headaches?
Any pain in the body can cause a headache. But tooth pain and headache are more closely related than you think. This is due to the close proximity of the trigeminal nerve that is the primary cause of all forms of tooth, gum, TMJ and jaw bone-related pains. The trigeminal nerve is the largest sensory nerve in the head and originates from within the skull and provides nerve supply to the face, teeth, gums, jaw and your jaw joint or the TMJ.
So, any pain that arises in these regions by any of the branches of this nerve, can immediately trigger a headache. Apart from this anatomical relation, many behaviours such as clenching or grinding of teeth can cause muscle tension resulting in a referred headache.
A toothache that originates from a nerve inflammation as in the case of tooth decay is usually sharp pain. A toothache that arises due to gum problems, TMJ issues, muscles and sinuses is more of nagging and dull pain.
Often times, a nagging, constant headache that has no apparent cause is related to a tooth or your jaw. Let’s see how each of these dental conditions causes a headache.
- Tooth Infection Causes a Toothache and Headache – It is quite common that a severe tooth infection that leads to nerve exposure and/or abscess formation leads to a constant heaviness or ache in the head. As explained earlier, this occurs because of the innervation of the trigeminal nerve in this region of the body.
- Dental Work – This might be a surprise to you but one cause that can trigger a tooth pain and headache is improperly done dental work. Yes, if a tooth filling, a crown, veneer, or any other restoration or even teeth alignment using braces is not done properly and in accordance with the patient’s bite, it can trigger off a chronic, nagging headache. In some cases, for example, when a tooth filling is ‘high’, it can cause severe tooth pain which subsides when the filling has been altered as per the patient’s bite.
However, many patients fail to bring this to their dentist’s notice and prefer to wait for the filling to ‘settle down’ by itself. These patients end up suffering from not just a toothache but also a headache. Improperly made dental restorations can also lead to joint issues, which also causes chronic headaches.
- TMJ Issues – Talking of the jaw joint, you will be surprised to know how small it is in size but how impactful it is to your wellbeing. Since it is the only movable joint in the head and neck region, it is responsible for all the movements we make using our jaws- eating, chewing, biting, talking, swallowing, yawning etc; The jaw joint also called the Temporomandibular Joint or TMJ, is very sensitive to the bite level of the individual and any minor change can cause it trouble. TMJ issues are usually silent and individuals do not know they have trouble with the joint until maybe a tooth pain and headache make a visit.
TMJ issues are one of the main causes of chronic headaches in people. In most cases, the patient has had some dental work done and/or has failed to visit a dentist in a very long time due to which the TMJ problem only became chronic. These patients have a long history of chronic, nagging, headaches and even migraines.
The reason for the relation between TMJ issues and headaches is the trigeminal nerve and its innervation to the joints, muscles and the nearby areas.
In people who clench or grind their teeth, the TMJ and its associated muscles and those in the neck are constantly over-worked and this also triggers a headache.
Many patients with untreated TMJ issues also develop cluster headaches and migraines.
- Toothache can Trigger Migraine – Another condition that connects tooth pain and headache is migraines. While TMJ issues can lead to migraines, chronic, nagging toothaches that are not attended to can also trigger a migraine.
How to relieve this pain?
In order to relieve your headache, your dentist identifies and treats the cause of the tooth pain first that is causing the headache. If your tooth pain and headache are due to a tooth infection leading to nerve inflammation, your dentist will perform a root canal treatment and remove the inflamed and infected nerve tissue.
If your tooth pain and headache are due to an improperly done filling or other restoration, your dentist will re-do it to restore your bite. 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.
If you still have queries about how tooth pain and headache are inter-related, visit your nearest Sabka Dentist clinic today for an expert opinion!