If you suffer from both headaches and toothaches, it is natural to wonder if these two symptoms are related. Maybe your toothache also triggers a headache, or maybe a combination of headache and toothache indicates a major health problem such as a sinus infection or temporomandibular joint dysfunction.
There are many causes of toothache, such as cavities, cracked teeth, or impacted wisdom teeth. If left untreated, the person may have a migraine – a throbbing, often one-sided headache that can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light or sound.
Experts believe that toothache that causes migraines is related to the trigeminal nerve, which is the fifth nerve in the skull. The trigeminal nerve is responsible for most of the facial senses, including the upper and lower lips, teeth, and gums.
Since the trigeminal nerve is believed to play an important role in the pathogenesis of migraine, it is logical that an underlying dental disease can stimulate the trigeminal nerve branch and thus cause migraines.
In addition to a toothache that causes migraines, tooth decay or advanced gum disease can “refer” the pain to the head.
Referred pain means that you have a problem in a separate area of your body that actually causes pain in another part. Again, this is due to the many neural connections (via the trigeminal nerve) that connect the teeth and other facial structures to the brain.
It is not surprising that a person sees a doctor when a dental problem occurs due to tension headaches or migraines.
An example of pain referred to as the head (of the teeth) is the gnashing of teeth, in which people press their teeth together. This often happens at night.
Bruxism is generally reported as a dull ache that wraps around the head or behind the eyes. Toothache and jaw muscle pain, as well as locking on the jaw joint or difficulty opening and closing the mouth, are also common.
Cavernous sinus thrombosis: Rarely, untreated dental disease can cause a serious, life-threatening infection called cavernous sinus thrombosis, causing severe headaches and often being felt behind the eyes or forehead.
In addition to severe headaches, other symptoms of cavernous sinus thrombosis include:
Poor eye movement (from third, fourth or sixth cranial nerve involvement)
Eyeball protrusion (proptosis)
There are some conditions that may cause headaches and toothaches, but are not actually related to headache and toothache disorders (such as migraines or tension headaches).
Sinus infection: A sinus infection can cause discomfort in one or more teeth, especially your upper teeth. Because they are located just below the maxillary sinus (behind the cheek bones).
In addition to toothache, headaches that are located in the damaged sinus cavity and worsen when bent forward are a common sign of a sinus infection.
Other signs and symptoms of a sinus infection include:
Nasal congestion and purulent discharge (containing pus)
Ear pressure or fullness
Temporomandibular joint disorder
Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or TMD), which refers to a problem in the jaw joint (located in front of your ear) and the muscles around it, is another condition that dentists commonly see because it often causes toothache.
In addition to toothache, temporomandibular joint disorders often cause headaches, which are usually described as pain that starts in the ear and travels to the jaw or neck. These headaches are usually caused by jaw movements such as chewing or opening and closing the mouth.
Trigeminal neuralgia: Trigeminal neuralgia is a pain disorder characterized by stimulation of the trigeminal nerve. This disorder causes fragile pain or shock, which is almost always unilateral.
In many cases, pain is felt along the upper or lower jaw, which is why people sometimes go to their dentist first and say they are suffering from a tooth abscess.
In fact, it is not uncommon for a person to undergo one or more unnecessary operations or tooth extractions before being diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia.
Be sure to see your doctor if you suffer from a new toothache or headache. Basic diagnosis can be a difficult process, even for healthcare providers, so be sure to talk to a specialist.