Headaches and Jaw Pain: How Your Dentist Can Help

One in four people will be affected by dental occlusal problems, which can cause head pain, a sore jaw, a ringing in your ears, and several other unpleasant side effects.

Fortunately, if you have any of the above symptoms, there are ways that your dentist can help you.

Within the below blog, we will discuss what causes occlusal problems, how you can recognize them, and the appropriate treatments.

What is a dental occlusion?

A dental occlusion refers to how the teeth and dental arches make contact with each other when you close your jaw or bite down. If you have a good jaw bite, your top teeth will sit a little over your bottom teeth and your back molars. However, when your bite is not aligned as it should be, known as a malocclusion, you can experience a number of dental issues.

What are the most common side effects of occlusal problems?

If you experience frequent migraine headaches, sinus headaches, or other common headache symptoms, these could be caused by misalignment. You may also feel pain in your teeth, mouth, and gums which can lead to gum disease and tooth loss.

There are several signs that you have a misaligned bite, including:

  • Overcrowded teeth
  • Overbite
  • Underbite
  • The edges of your front teeth touch when you bite down

If you do have malocclusion, you may also experience one or more of the below symptoms:

  1. 1. Crooked teeth

If your teeth are uneven or crooked, then it can be caused by misalignment. You may also experience reoccurring problems with dental fillings breaking or coming loose.

  1. 2. Grinding

You may not even realize you are doing it, but many people who have a malocclusion will grind their teeth when they are sleeping. If you often wake up with stiff jaw movement or you feel tenderness in your teeth, it is highly likely that you experience sleep bruxism, also known as teeth grinding.

  1. 3. Jaw joint pain

As well as giving you a headache, you may also find yourself with pain in your jaw, and you may struggle to open or close your mouth. Teeth clenching and jaw clicking are also common.

  1. 4. Missing teeth

Missing or loose teeth often go hand in hand with a misaligned bite. In fact, this condition can be made worse by missing teeth, especially in the back of the mouth.

  1. 5. Temporomandibular joint disorder

Often referred to as TMJ, this disorder can cause a frequent headache, neck and shoulder pain, as well as discomfort in the jaw area. TMJ disorders are a very common symptom of a misaligned bite.

  1. Sleep disorders

Malocclusion can influence the occurrence of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea which can lead to secondary headaches. Already associated with an increased risk of conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and dementia, studies are now indicating that sleep apnea may even cause a brain tumor in rare cases.

How to treat dental occlusion problems?

If you think that you may have a misaligned bite, the first step you need to take is to get in touch with your nearest dental services clinic. This is so that they can carry out a full examination and evaluation of your mouth and teeth to determine the cause of your pain or discomfort.

The exact treatment that you are offered will be dependent on the specific types of occlusion issues that you have. Some of the most common treatment plans for a misaligned bite include:

  1. A mouth guard

A simple solution but a highly effective one, a mouth guard is typically worn at night and can help to stop patients from grinding and damaging their teeth. You may also be recommended to try another type of custom dental device such as a splint which prevents your upper teeth from coming into contact with your lower teeth.

  1. Teeth straightening

Your dentist may recommend straightening your teeth as this can help to improve your overall bite and eliminate any pain or discomfort.

  1. Tooth adjustment

If you have teeth that are in the wrong position, dental treatments such as sculpting and recontouring and help to correct your alignment issues.

  1. Tooth replacement

Your TMJ needs to have support from both sides of the jaw, and any missing teeth can prevent this from happening. However, by replacing any missing or broken teeth, you can often resolve the problem.

  1. Pain medication

In the short term, pain medication such as ibuprofen and aspirin can offer you respite from any pain or discomfort that you are experiencing. However, you will need to get to the root of the problem if you want to eliminate your symptoms altogether.

  1. Hot and cold therapy

If you have TMJ disorder and you do not want to take pain medication, your dentist may suggest that you try hot and cold therapy. This involves alternating the use of hot and cold packs to lessen any pain or discomfort in the jaw and head area. As a natural therapy, this is a great muscle relaxer and can significantly improve your quality of life.

  1. Relaxation techniques

There are also several other relaxation techniques that you can try to treat the temporomandibular disorder. These techniques are specifically designed to target tense jaw muscles and reduce jaw tension. If you are interested in learning these techniques, ask your dentist for further information.

  1. Lifestyle changes

Certain lifestyle habits can worsen this condition, but fortunately, a few small and simple changes can make all the difference. These include:

  • Avoiding hard or chewy foods
  • Reducing stress to prevent unhealthy behaviors such as teeth clenching
  • Avoiding specific jaw movements such as wide yawning and gum chewing

If none of the above are able to remedy the situation, your dentist may talk to you about surgical options. However, it is worth noting that these are only considered for people with extreme TMJ pain who have exhausted all other treatments.

While headaches and jaw pain can be very comfortable, there are a wide variety of remedies available. You do not have to live with the pain.

Here at our family dentist in Ashville, we have helped many of our patients to find the root cause of their headache and jaw problems and overcome their pain.

Let us help you too!