Headache help: how your dentist can ease the pain

If you get a lot of tension headaches, talk to your dentist. He or she has access to effective tools and approaches that can alleviate tension, protect your teeth and jaw, and minimize your pain – or get rid of it completely.

Before talking to your dentist, ask yourself a few questions. If you answer yes to any of them, mention your pain on your next office visit.

• Do you grind or clench your teeth?
• Do you wake up with a headache or pain in your face?
• Does your jaw click?
• When you press on 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?

So how can your dentist relieve your headaches? I always start with a complete exam of the jaw joints, head and neck muscles and bite. The source is often TMJ or temporomandibular joint disorder, which is basically a misaligned bite.

If you have TMJ, you’ll likely be fitted for a custom night guard. Designed to keep your muscles in a neutral position, it balances your bite and keeps you from grinding your enamel. Most patients find that the night guard increases their comfort dramatically, but it can also be combined with physiotherapy, massage, chiropractic care and/or pharmacology. There are several different night guard styles, which are chosen based on your needs and physiology. Some fit on your top or bottom teeth, or be designed to go on your front teeth so your molars can’t meet. These front tooth appliances are also called NTI deprogrammers; not every dentist uses them, so if you’re think it might be the right solution for you, then you should ask your dentist about them specifically.

One warning: no matter what style of night guard you use, a custom fit is crucial. The over-the-counter guards you can get at the pharmacy end up doing more harm than good, in most cases. The bite is such a sensitive thing that even a filling can throw it off. A guard, whether it’s for grinding or snoring or both – has to be made for you to be effective.

If you have questions or comments about this blog or about my approaches to headache relief, call us at 905 637-5463 (KIND) or drop us an email. We’re happy to help in any way we can.


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