Dentists can help ease headaches

July 2, 2011

If you get frequent headaches, you know how uncomfortable and exhausting they can be. Constant pain drains you, taking the fun out of even the most enjoyable activities. But did you know that help could be dentist’s visit away? It’s true. Dentists can help with headaches. In fact, dentists are particularly effective at addressing pain caused by tension.

Whether the problem originates in the jaw, head muscles or neck area, a dentist can be helpful in diagnosing and treating tension-related discomfort.

Stress is a huge factor in causing tension headaches. When we’re stressed, we clench and grind our teeth. It’s a natural response, and most of us don’t even realize we’re doing it. Most people clench, but some do it more than their bodies can comfortably tolerate. For those of us who grind our teeth excessively, the jaw joint gets overworked, and the muscles in the neck, ear area, temples and the top of the head get tense and sore, resulting in – you guessed it – headaches and migraines.

Here’s a quick self-test to see if your headaches might be caused by tension:

  • Do you grind or clench your teeth?
  • Do you wake up in the morning with sore facial or neck muscles – or a headache?
  • Do your teeth look worn down?
  • Does your jaw click when you’re talking or eating?
  • When you feel your neck, ear area and temples, are they sore?
  • Do your headaches tend to be focused around your ears, temples, or at the top of your head?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, talk to your dentist. He or she may be able to help.

So how, exactly, can a dentist alleviate your pain? By figuring out the source and treating it accordingly. At our practice, we always start with a thorough examination, where we pay close attention to the jaw joints, assess the head and neck muscles, and figure out if clenching and grinding or a misaligned bite (called temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ) are at fault.

So why does clenching lead to pain? Try clenching your fist for ten minutes – the effort will probably lead to cramping, or at the very least, make the muscles in your hand sore and tired. And if a mere ten minutes causes pain, imagine the damage that clenching your jaw all night, every night can do.

But there is a solution that works well for many of our patients. Once we have determined the cause of the problem, we will often recommend a myopathic splint, also known as a night guard. These appliances are custom made for each patient, with bite surfaces that keep your muscles in a neutral position, balance your bite and keep you from grinding your enamel down any further. The majority of patients find that the night guard increases their comfort dramatically and no further treatment is needed. In some situations, however, the guard can be combined with physiotherapy, massage, chiropractic care and/or pharmacology to increase its effectiveness.

If you’re suffering from recurring headaches or migraines, talk to your dentist. There may be a simple solution that could mean a life with less pain – and more living.

If you have questions or comments about this blog or about Dr. Heidary’s approaches to headache relief, call us at 905 637-5463 (KIND) or drop us an email at info@desiredsmiles.com. We’d love to hear from you.

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