You might not expect your oral health and headaches to be related. But as it turns out, there’s often a direct connection.
Here’s a look at how toothaches and other oral issues can cause headaches.
A toothache is one of the main causes of migraine headaches. Almost all headaches and toothaches are detected by one of the largest nerves in the head—the trigeminal nerve. This nerve provides sensation to most of your face, including your teeth and gums.
When you have a toothache, the trigeminal nerve can get irritated and trigger a migraine headache. If the toothache is left untreated, it can cause other symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light or sound.1
Teeth grinding, or bruxism, may not cause a headache, but it can “refer” pain to the head. Referred pain is when you feel a painful sensation in a different part of your body from where the pain actually exists. The sensation travels through nerve connections, and in this case, the trigeminal nerve. In addition to headaches, teeth grinding can result in jaw and face pain and flattened, chipped or loose teeth.2
Temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, is when there is a problem with a jaw joint and the muscles surrounding it. TMJ can cause pain in the joint and muscles, but it can also cause toothaches and headaches. The headaches are typically triggered by an action like chewing or opening and closing the mouth.3
If you’re missing a tooth or your teeth don’t line up correctly, your jaw muscles may have to work harder to bring your top and bottom teeth together. Over time, this can cause TMJ and eventually migraine headaches.4
If you know the cause of your headaches, fixing the problem could be as easy as getting a cavity filled or wearing a night guard. If you aren’t sure, make an appointment with your doctor to get a diagnosis. Your doctor could provide treatment or refer you to your dentist or a specialist.
If you need dental treatment, Humana can help. We offer a broad range of dental plans with varying levels of coverage, many with affordable monthly premiums. Some of our plans also feature no waiting periods, which means you could get covered in about 5 days. To see plans and prices in your area, check out our Humana dental insurance page.