Can Poor Oral Health Cause Headaches
Oral Health

Can Poor Oral Health Cause Headaches

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Headaches can have many possible causes, from lack of sleep, eye strain and stress to infections and other medical conditions.

3 minute read

With oral health being closely linked to overall health, problems affecting the teeth, gums or jaws can also contribute to headaches, migraines and earaches.

This Dental Health Week, find out about the connection to headaches and how your dentist could help if an oral health issue may be a factor. Got a question about your oral health? Get in touch with our team today.


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What are the links between dental problems and headaches?

A number of dental problems may cause or worsen headaches. These include:

  • Toothache
  • Impacted wisdom teeth
  • Uneven bite
  • Teeth grinding or clenching
  • TMJ dysfunction

If your doctor thinks an oral health issue may be a factor in your headaches, they can refer you to a dentist who can discuss suitable treatments and prevention.


Toothache and headaches

Like a headache, toothache can happen for many different reasons. These common pains are linked to the sensory signals that are both transmitted to the brain through the trigeminal nerve, the largest nerve in the head. This is more likely to happen with a sustained toothache causing a migraine.

Tooth pain is often a symptom of an oral health problem such as tooth decay, gum disease or a root canal infection. An existing condition will require appropriate treatment from your dentist. You can lower your risk of further problems developing by keeping up with regular check-ups and cleans.


Impacted wisdom teeth

Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt at the back of the mouth, usually between the ages of 17 and 25. While most wisdom teeth erupt normally, they may get stuck (impacted) in the gum if there isn't enough space in the jaw or if the tooth grows at the wrong angle. This can cause pain, including headaches.

impacted wisdom teeth causing headaches

Wisdom tooth removal is a common dental procedure that can relieve these symptoms and prevent other complications, such as infections. Your dentist may recommend early wisdom tooth removal as a preventive measure if the size of your jaw indicates that problems may be likely.

If you have been experiencing wisdom tooth pain for a while, it could be time to get them removed. Speak to your EVP dentist about wisdom tooth removal treatment options. Simple treatments can often be provided in the chair under a local anaesthesia. Alternatively, you may consider sleep dentistry if wisdom tooth removal requires surgery, or if you are particularly anxious about dental treatment.


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Uneven bite

If your teeth don't bite together normally, this can put strain on your jaw muscles, leading to pain or swelling. Like a persistent toothache, this pain may transfer to your head via the nerve and contribute to headache or migraine.

Your dentist can recommend treatments depending on what's causing your uneven bite. These may include teeth straightening treatment to bring teeth or jaws into better alignment, reshaping worn or damaged teeth with crowns or replacing several missing teeth with a bridge, denture or dental implants.


Teeth grinding or clenching

Habitually grinding or clenching teeth is known as bruxism. This may happen unknowingly during sleep, at times of stress or anxiety, or due to a physical cause, such as a bad bite. As well as causing damage and tooth wear, untreated bruxism may also lead to jaw pain, headaches, earaches, neck and facial pain.

teeth grinding causing headaches

If you grind your teeth at night, your dentist may provide a night guard to protect your teeth and help relieve your symptoms during sleep. Other bruxism treatments involve addressing the psychological cause or correcting a misaligned bite with orthodontics.


Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction

The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are the two joints that connect the upper and lower jaws on the sides of the head. If the function of these joints is impaired, this may make it hard to open and close your mouth and cause pain in the jaw, ears or face, as well as severe headaches in some cases.

Night guards to relieve TMJ pain

TMJ dysfunction can have many possible causes, including an uneven bite, teeth grinding or joint conditions such as arthritis. Your dentist may recommend wearing a night guard or other appropriate treatments to address the underlying cause.


When to see a doctor or dentist

Most headaches are mild and go away by themselves after a few hours or after using pain relief. If you have a more severe headache, or suffer from recurring headaches or migraines, you should talk to your doctor. They can work with you to understand the possible causes and recommend treatments.

Your doctor will likely refer you to a dentist if they think your headache might be due to an oral health issue. Your dentist will examine your mouth and jaws and ask about your symptoms to determine whether there is an underlying dental problem and what treatment options could help.


How to get rid of a headache

If your dentist or doctor is treating an underlying cause of headaches or migraines, you may still want to prevent pain in the short term. Effective headache treatments vary depending on the person, the type of headache and its severity, but some general recommendations are:

  • Avoiding triggers of headaches as much as possible. This may include closing blinds or curtains, not looking at screens and avoiding certain foods and drinks.
  • Taking over-the-counter pain relief medication, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. These can be most effective when taken at the first sign of a headache and you should follow the advice on the packaging. Be advised that relying on medication too often may lead to an overuse headache.
  • Taking it easy or trying to sleep it off.
  • Applying a warm or cool cloth to your forehead or neck.
  • Getting exercise in fresh air, unless your headache is triggered by sunlight.
  • For more severe or frequent headaches, your doctor may prescribe stronger pain relief.


How to prevent headaches

While you may not be able to prevent all headaches, you could lower your risks by:

  • avoiding common triggers such as alcohol and caffeine, bright lights, poor posture and stress
  • drinking plenty of water
  • eating a balanced diet
  • getting regular exercise
  • seeing your dentist every 6 months for your regular check-up


See a dentist in East Victoria Park

If you want to talk to a dentist or you're due for a check-up, contact our friendly team to book an appointment at EVP Dental at a time that's good for you.


Call us today on (08) 9470 3944 or make an online booking.

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Dental Health Week is celebrated every year in the first full week of August and focuses on the importance of taking steps to care for your teeth and gums to help you to keep your teeth and smile for life. For more info, visit