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Got a headache? See your dentist

Regular visits to your dentist can involve much more than just checking for cavities. Your dentist can also help you determine why you might be having other issues, such as headaches or neck pain.

What can your dentist learn from your headaches?

Because tension headaches usually come from muscle strain that develops in the jaw and mouth, your dentist can see if this strain is the result of your jaw not biting down correctly. Your dentist may recommend orthodontic work such as braces or oral surgery. Depending on the treatment plan, this type of work would likely be done by a dental specialist.

In addition, a misalignment might be making you grind your teeth at night in your sleep. This grinding, also known as bruxism, might be why you wake up with a headache in the morning. Even some nervous habits can lead to headaches: chewing on a pencil, for example, or biting your nails.

Treatment for bruxism is usually managed by a general dentist and involves using a mouthguard while sleeping to prevent the teeth from grinding against each other. Bruxism can also be treated by incorporating stress-reduction behaviors to help you relax and better manage your anxiety.

The biggest cause of headaches? TMJ

TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder, is a major cause of headaches. It affects the jaw joints and muscles, as well as the facial nerves, and can be very painful if not treated. Although most cases of TMJ go away after some time, it’s important to visit your dentist if you think you might have TMJ.

Toothaches and sinus problems can also feel similar to TMJ, so be sure your dentist verifies the diagnosis. He or she can work with you to develop stress-release exercises to help you manage the pain.

What if my headache isn’t caused by TMJ?

Cavities and infections can also lead to headaches. Regular cleanings and proper treatment can help reduce those risks. The most important thing to remember is that not all headaches are dental-related, so be sure to speak with your doctor if you’re having persistent problems.

Last updated December 21, 2021

The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.