What Causes Headaches? (And How To Avoid Them)

Dental Health
By: Spirit Dental
December 10, 2020

Middle age man holding his head in pain

Do you suffer from frequent headaches? Well, the cause of that pain might actually be in your mouth or jaw. It’s true! A lot of people don’t realize that there’s a connection between oral health issues and headaches, but it turns out that the relief you seek might actually be found in your dentist’s chair.

Below, we cover what oral health problems might lead to headaches and migraines. With this information, you can then take steps to avoid headaches and keep your mouth healthy.

Perhaps the Pain Is Starting in Your Jaw

Believe it or not, tension in your jaw might lead to tension in your head. The temporomandibular joint that connects the jaw to the skull might become tense on one or both sides, and that could lead to pain that radiates to your head.

If you’re experiencing headaches that you think might be caused by a tense jaw, your dentist can perform a checkup to see if you’re dealing with TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder), also known as TMJ. Then, by getting the right treatment for TMJ, you might be able to get relief from your headaches and migraines as well. 

Note: There are several factors that can lead to TMJ, and your dentist can work on figuring out the cause of your discomfort. For example, one potential cause is clenching and grinding the teeth. 

Clenching and Grinding Your Teeth Might Lead to Headaches, Too

Known as bruxism, clenching your teeth or grinding them might lead to problems with your jaw, and that may result in pain in your head. 

Sometimes, people don’t even realize that they’re clenching their teeth throughout the day, particularly during periods of stress. On top of that, clenching and grinding can also occur during the night while you’re asleep. And if that’s the case, you might wake up with a painful headache.

There are a few signs that can point to whether or not you’re grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw. For example, you might notice that your teeth are more sensitive than usual, or your teeth look worn or flatter than they should. If your jaw feels tight, sore, or tired, or if you tend to wake up with headaches, those symptoms might also point to bruxism.

Rest assured that there are treatment options available. Your dentist might recommend a mouth guard, or you may find relief if you begin incorporating stress relieving techniques into your daily life.

It Might Even Be a Problem with Your Bite

If your bite isn’t right (known as malocclusion), you might end up with TMJ and headaches. Basically, when your bite is misaligned, your jaw muscles need to work more, and they become increasingly more strained, thereby leading to pain. 

So, are you missing a tooth? Or do your teeth fail to line up properly when you close your mouth? Consider talking to your dentist about the treatment options that are available, such as braces for malocclusion and dental implants for missing teeth. That way, you won’t have to keep getting headaches because of your bite.

Cavities, Infections, and Headaches

There’s a connection between cavities and infections in your mouth and headaches. Who knew?!

Put simply, your headache or migraine might be an extension of a toothache, thanks to the trigeminal nerve. Basically, when there’s pain in one area of the nerve, other areas of the nerve might also react, leading to headache. Or, your body might be reacting to a toothache by tightening your jaw—and, as discussed above, that could lead to headaches too.  

Brushing and flossing at home, along with professional checkups and cleanings, can help you keep your oral health on track. Plus, when you see your dentist on a regular basis, he or she can spot problems in their earliest stages, before they can lead to other symptoms like headaches.

Pro tip: If you’re worried about affording the checkups and treatments you need, don’t worry, as there are affordable dental insurance plans that help cover the cost of everything from cleanings to fillings. 

Consider Seeing Your Dentist About Your Headaches

Seeing a doctor about your headaches is wise, but if no cause is found, the problem might be originating in your mouth or jaw. At that point, your dentist might be able to pinpoint the cause of your headaches or migraines, as well as give you the treatment that will make the pain go away.











Search for Resources


Senior Dental Health
Eye Health
Children's Dental Health
Dental Health