Often, what causes a person to seek out dental services is dental pain. A toothache can start as a small, nagging pain, but if it is ignored for too long, the discomfort can become more intense and trigger a headache.
Dr. Taylor—our dentist here at Taylor General & Cosmetic Dentistry—is often asked about why toothaches cause headaches. The short answer is that toothaches trigger headaches due to a cranial nerve connection. However, the long answer is a little more complicated.
What Causes Toothaches To Trigger Headaches
Toothaches can be caused by a number of dental issues, such as a cavity, an impacted tooth, cracked or chipped teeth, an abscess, and other oral health problems. Since most of these issues don’t come with visible signs, the pain of the toothache is one of the few noticeable indicators that something is wrong.
Now, for how the pain of your toothache causes a headache. There are twelve cranial nerves, and the nerve that senses how the majority of your face feels—gums, lips, and teeth—is called the trigeminal nerve.
This nerve has branches all over your teeth, lips, and gums, so when you have a dental problem causing pain, the trigeminal nerve sends that painful sensation information to your brain.
Dental Problems Referring Pain To The Head
This transmission of pain is also called referred pain. While there is no pain point in your head that triggers the headache, the pain of your toothache can create the sensation of pain.
In fact, you may not notice the toothache if you are dealing with a sufficiently painful migraine. Some people end up going to their primary care physician about migraines and tension headaches when the issue really is a problem with their oral health.
Another example of referred pain would be headaches triggered by bruxism and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). Bruxism is when you clench your jaw or grind your teeth without actively meaning to do it. Often, bruxism occurs in your sleep, and you may wake up with a sore jaw, aching teeth, and a headache.
With TMJ, the issue is generally caused by an issue with your jaw joint as well as the surrounding muscles. Along with causing toothaches, TMJ can make the area around your jaw joint, ear, neck, and temple ache. This aching pain can trigger headaches, tension headaches, and migraines.
Ways You Can Prevent Headache-Causing Dental Issues
Naturally, if you have a cavity, abscess, impacted teeth, or other issues that are triggering headaches, you will need to have them addressed by Dr. Taylor. That way, you can start to heal and not be plagued by dental pain and potentially migraines.
On top of having the immediate dental problems taken care of, there are other ways you can
- Have regular dental cleanings – By having regular, biannual dental cleanings, you can protect yourself from future headaches brought on by toothaches. Our staff will be able to detect problem areas, and Dr. Taylor can advise you on treatments to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
- Consider a custom nightguard – If you struggle with bruxism, you can prevent the morning headaches caused by teeth grinding and clenching with a custom-made nightguard. As a custom nightguard is made by Dr. Taylor taking an impression of your teeth, the guard will fit you excellently and help protect your teeth from grinding and clenching.
- Focus on optimal oral care – Taking care of your daily oral care is one of the best things you can do to prevent future toothaches. Brushing your teeth at least once in the morning and at night, as well as flossing once a day can help maintain your oral health. You may also want to consider using a mouthwash that helps eliminate bacteria.
- Use toothpaste for sensitive teeth – Should you have sensitive teeth that trigger headaches, you may want to ask Dr. Taylor about what toothpaste for sensitive teeth would be best for you. That way, you can enjoy things like ice cream or hot soup without your teeth hurt.
If you are having dental troubles and want compassionate, expert care to help you manage your oral health, then you should contact us for an appointment. No matter what shape your teeth are in, Dr. Taylor will help get you back on track.