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Do Your Painful Headaches Have a Dental Cause?

Do Your Painful Headaches Have a Dental Cause?

If you’ve ever experienced a nagging, painful headache, you know how frustrating the experience can be. When the discomfort doesn’t go away, it becomes difficult to get much of anything done.

Sleeping is hard, talking hurts, working on your computer can be excruciating, and just going through the motions of daily life can suddenly become a major chore.

Unfortunately for many people, getting to the root of these headaches is commonly easier said than done.

Luckily, we’re here to share with you a possibility that few people have thought of before: could your nagging headaches be linked to dental pain?

Here’s what you need to know:

When Headaches Have Something to Say About Your Oral Health

Headaches and oral health often go hand-in-hand. Because headaches and toothaches transmit through the trigeminal nerve, which is the largest sensory nerve in the head, and which supplies the teeth, scalp, jaw, external face, and internal facial structures with feeling, pain can travel across branches and activate other segments of the nerve when pain is sustained or severe.

This is how pain that is initially centered in the muscles or nerves throughout the face and neck can go on to cause a negative feedback loop, which triggers the jaw and can cause neck pain, or vice-versa. When pain becomes chronic and sustained, it can lead to a headache. Alternately, sustained toothache can easily trigger episodic headaches that become migraines over the long-term.

Even if the pain you feel in your head isn’t coming directly from a toothache, it can come from reflexive behavior centered around your face and jaw, such as jaw clenching or muscle tightening, which can cause or exacerbate pain and lead to ongoing headaches.

Because the orofacial and craniocervical systems are quite interconnected, you can clench your teeth and contract your neck muscles inadvertently and create an ongoing headache, as a result.

When head and face pain come from tooth or jaw joint injuries, it’s often because a patient is clenching or grinding the teeth for long periods of time. This causes damage to the tissues surrounding the teeth. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for physicians to identify where the pain is coming from. Because of this, it’s wise to see a dentist who can decipher dental and orofacial pain and help you create a plan for relief

Dental Problems That Trigger Headache Pain

Oral health and headaches can and often are related. In fact, many chronic headache situations are caused by conditions that can only be treated by a dentist. Here are a few of the most common problems that cause headache pain:

  • Cavities and infections. Simple cavities and infections can and often do trigger headache pain. In most cases, the headaches associated with dental problems arise from tension, which results from muscle strain present in the mouth and jaw. These headaches are typically a dull pain that arises on one or both sides of the head and wraps all the way around. These are common among people who grind their teeth at night.
  • Misaligned bite. If your bite is off, the muscles around your mouth have to work harder to chew food effectively. This results in muscle strain that can become constant and cause ongoing pain. As pain starts in one branch of the nerve, it can spread to other branches, leading to pain that radiates throughout the head, behind the eyes, through the temples, or across the forehead.
  • Tooth grinding. If you grind your teeth at night, you overwork your jaw muscles, which causes problems within the jaw joint. This is often characterized by popping or clicking in the jaw joint, and can go on to cause headaches, migraines, and ongoing pain, as well as the destruction of the tooth surface.

Resolving Headaches Caused by Dental Pain

Think you have to live forever with the excruciating headaches caused by dental pain? Think again. According to the American Migraine Foundation, there are dozens of ways to resolve these headaches and get your life back to normal. Some of the best options include the following:

  • Lifestyle changes. Changing your lifestyle is the simplest way to resolve dental-caused headaches. If you chew on your fingernails, pens, cheeks, or lips, put an end to these habits now. Even something as simple as holding your cell phone against your jaw can cause unneeded stress and pressure, and may trigger a headache. You may also want to avoid chewing gum or eating foods that are crunchy, sticky, or hard to chew.
  • Cut up food. If the motion of opening your mouth large enough to take a bite out of a big, juicy hamburger hurts, start cutting up your food. Instead of taking a bite out of a whole apple, cut it up into bite-sized pieces. The more effectively you can avoid opening your mouth too widely, the less likely it is you’ll continue to suffer from dental headaches.
  • Make your yawns smaller. When you yawn, be conscious about reducing the width of your mouth opening. Relax your teeth and keep them separated as you hold your face in a neutral position. If your jaw feels cramped up after a yawn, practice some gentle stretching exercises to keep it limber.
  • Consider a mouth guard. If you clench your teeth while you sleep, talk to your dentist about having a custom-made mouthguard fashioned. Not only will this protect your dental surface, but it can reduce the stress on your jaw. ou have a habit of clenching, you will clench while asleep as well.
  • Consider massage. Just like a good massage can release achy back muscles, it may work wonders for achy jaws and teeth. If this appeals to you, look for a massage therapist that specializes in TMJ and can help you resolve your dental issues.

You Don’t Have to Live With Jaw Pain

If you’ve been living with dental-caused headaches or migraines for years, there is relief in sight. While these conditions are uncomfortable and painful, they are also fixable. By doing simple things, like changing your lifestyle, investing in massage, having a dental guard made for sleeping, or even cutting food into small pieces, you can combat much of the discomfort associated with dental headaches, and get back to living a comfortable, pain-free life.

Teeth Grinding Home Remedies

Bruxism, or dental grinding, often occurs during sleep and is frequently caused by abnormal bites or missing or crooked teeth.

According to recent estimates, it affects about 15-33% of people. If you grind your teeth at night, you might be wondering if there are steps you can take to stop it. The answer, luckily, is yes!

You don’t have to live with bruxism! These simple remedies can help. Contact our team today for more information on how to stop grinding your teeth.

What to do When you Lose a Tooth

What to do When you Lose a Tooth

Losing a permanent tooth can be a frightening experience. Don’t worry, though: there are ways to rescue the tooth and increase the chances that it will go back into your mouth. Here’s your quick guide:

If you’ve lost or loosened a tooth, don’t wait to get care! When you act as quickly as possible, replacing the tooth is possible. Don’t forget that we’re always here to provide the emergency dental care you need!

How to Handle a Dental Emergency

How to Handle a Dental Emergency

Let’s face it: nobody wants to deal with a dental emergency. From aches and pains to broken teeth, there’s no doubt that dental emergencies can be alarming and uncomfortable. Unfortunately, they happen, and understanding how to deal with them effectively is a critical part of keeping your mouth healthy and happy for years to come.

Here’s what you need to know about how to handle a dental emergency for yourself or a family member.

Dental Emergencies, Categorized

Obviously, there’s a large difference between a simple toothache and a true dental emergency. But how do you tell the difference between the two? What requires immediate care from a professional and what can you tend to at home? Here’s a list of true dental emergencies to watch for:

  • Missing teeth. Knocked-out permanent or adult teeth are common forms of dental injuries, and are especially prevalent in people who play contact sports, such as hockey or soccer.
  • Cracked teeth. Cracked teeth can vary in severity, but are always essential to pay attention to. In some cases, a chunk of the tooth can come missing. In others, the entire tooth may crack in half, exposing the root and creating a painful situation.
  • Bit tongues or lips. While it’s one thing to bite your lip while chewing your food (and is decidedly not an emergency), it’s entirely another to bite through your lip or tongue during an impact. This is a true dental emergency that requires attention from a professional immediately.
  • Objects stuck in the mouth. From food particles to foreign items, anything stuck in the mouth requires immediate dental professional attention.  

Other dental emergencies may include infections, fractures, and acute dental pain.

Handling Dental Emergencies

The way you’ll handle a dental emergency depends, in large part, on what, exactly, the emergency comes from. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common dental emergencies and how to handle each:

Toothaches

Toothaches vary in severity from the inconvenient to the nauseatingly painful, and all must be dealt with accordingly. If you’re suffering from a toothache, start by rinsing your mouth with warm water or warm saline solution.

Using dental floss, floss gently  between each of your teeth. This will help to dislodge any stuck food. If the mouth is swollen, apply a cold compress to the outside of the cheek, over the area that is in pain.

Take an aspirin to reduce inflammation and contact your dentist for an appointment as soon as possible. If the toothache is surface-level, you may also apply a topical analgesic like Orajel to numb the pain.

Chipped or Broken Teeth

Chipped and broken teeth are some of the most damaging dental emergencies, and can lead to infections and pain if left untreated. To handle a chipped or broken tooth in the short-term, rinse the mouth with warm water or saline solution.

Swish gently over any broken pieces. If the tooth is bleeding, apply a firm gauze compress to stop the bleeding. Once the bleeding has stopped, add a cold compress to the outside of the mouth, cheek, or lip around the area of the broken tooth. This will help reduce swelling and pain and prepare the area for treatment.

Contact your dentist for an appointment as soon as possible.

Knocked-Out Teeth

Knocked-out teeth are about as bad as chipped teeth when it comes to pain and long-term destruction. To deal with a knocked-out tooth, retrieve the lost tooth by the crown, rinse it with water if the tooth is dirty, and put the tooth into a small container of milk, or salted water.

Make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. If you can see the dentist within an hour of having the tooth knocked out, the chances of the tooth being returned to your socket are very high.

Loose Teeth

If you have an extruded (partially dislodged) tooth, it’s essential to see your dentist immediately. While there’s not much you can do to threat this dental condition at home, applying a cold compress to the outside of the mouth or cheek can help cut down on pain and reduce swelling.

When you see your dentist, they’ll be able to come up with a plan to help replace the tooth in its socket and get you on your way again.

Objects Stuck Between Teeth

If you have an object caught between your teeth, use dental floss to remove the object, if possible. Be gentle so as not to disrupt your gums or cause bleeding or irritation. If you can’t remove the object, contact your dentist.

Whatever you do, do not use a pin, knife, or other sharp object to attempt to dislodge the object. This approach can cut gums, scratch the tooth surface, and make it more difficult to promote good dental health.

Missing Fillings or Crowns

When a crown or filling goes missing, it’s an alarming feeling. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be a complete emergency. If you lose a filling or crown, stay calm. In a pinch, you can apply a piece of sugarless gum to the area where the cavity is exposed.

Over-the-counter dental cement will also work to fill the space and prevent your root from being exposed and vulnerable. If you managed to find the crown or filling, keep it with you and make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible.

Broken Braces

Braces are durable and long-lasting, but that doesn’t mean they don’t break from time to time. If a wire on your braces breaks or is sticking out of the bracket or band, use the eraser of a pencil to push the wire back into a more comfortable position. If you can’t reposition it, cover the end with something like gauze until you can get to the doctor’s office. Don’t cut the wire, as it could put you at risk for inhaling it, or damaging the overall integrity of your braces.

Dental Abscesses

Abscesses are infections that take place at or around the root of a tooth, or in the gums and space around the teeth. A serious condition that can lead to bone infections, damaged tissue, and migrating infections that can be very dangerous or fatal.

Because abscesses are some of the most dangerous dental health problems, it’s essential to get to the dentist as soon as possible. In the meantime, rinse your mouth with a saltwater solution (½ teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water) several times a day. Do not try to rupture or pop the abscess, as this can exacerbate infection.

Avoiding Dental Emergencies

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, when it comes to dental emergencies. With that in mind, here are a few actionable tips to avoid dental emergencies in the first place:

  • If you plan to play sports or participate in recreational activities, specifically any sport that involves contact, be sure to wear a mouthguard at all times.
  • Don’t chew hard things like popcorn kernels, ice, hard candy, and anything else that could potentially crack a tooth or cause damage to dental tissue.  
  • Don’t ever use your teeth to open or cut things. Instead, reach for scissors or a knife to do these jobs.
  • Make regular appointments with your dentist, especially if you have crowns, braces, or fillings.

If you do suffer a dental emergency, don’t panic. Dentists understand that dental emergencies happen, and most maintain some time to deal with these emergencies in their schedules. Call your dentist and provide as much detail as possible about your condition to get an appointment quickly. Our team is here to assist you with anything you may need, so give us a call today!

Taking Care of Your Braces & Teeth

Taking Care of Your Braces & Teeth

The moment you get braces, taking care of your teeth takes on a new importance. Don’t worry, though! It’s far from impossible. These smart, dentist-approved tips will help you keep your mouth and teeth healthy, braces and all.

How to Protect Your Face While Playing Sports

How to Protect Your Face While Playing Sports

If you play football, soccer, hockey, or any other contact sport, you know that the attitude surrounding these high-intensity activities has changed in recent years. In football, specifically, protection has become the priority.

Today, athletic trainers want to make sure that their athletes are adequately protected, and that the delicate areas of the face and head remain safe during intense bouts of play. While this shifting mindset does quite a lot to protect players on its own, there are still steps that you can take to protect your head and face while playing sports. In addition to cutting down on unsightly black eyes and bruises, this approach will also help keep your teeth, mouth, and dental arch safe.

Here’s what you need to know:

Injuries to the Head and Face During High-Impact Sports

In high-impact sports, injuries to the head and face are common. These injuries range from concussions to bruises to lacerations and broken noses. Eye and teeth injuries are also common. While there is no way to rule out these injuries entirely, proper protection, whether mandatory or not, can go a long way toward mitigating them.

If you participate in sports that use a small ball, such as baseball, softball, lacrosse, field hockey, and tennis, you probably already know that these sports put you at increased risk of head and face injuries. This risk owes to the high velocity of the ball and the rapid pace of the sport. To protect yourself, it pays to be continually aware of your surroundings and to wear protective gear that will help reduce the risk of getting injured in the line of play.

Protective Gear to Wear During Sports

Here’s a list of some of the protective equipment that athletes should be wearing during any high-impact sport:

Helmets. Helmets are the first line of defense when it comes to protecting the head and face during high-impact sports. Mandatory in most high school sports, such as football, ice hockey, softball, lacrosse, and baseball, helmets are designed to prevent skull fractures, reduce the risk of concussions, and, in the case of full-face helmets, provide some protection for the orbital bones, teeth, and jaw.  To do their jobs correctly, helmets must fit properly. As a general rule, they should not be so tight as to cause a headache, but should not be loose enough that they can be lifted off the head, or pushed backwards.

Facemasks. Face masks work in conjunction with helmets. Required in sports like high school hockey, men’s lacrosse, and football, helmets may also be necessary for softball and some sports. Hockey and lacrosse face masks work to protect the eyes and jaw from impact. In football, a face mask extends across the brow bones and around the jaw, to protect the facial bones and teeth. An interesting but little-known fact is that different football positions require different types of face masks to offer different kinds of protection. For example, a lineman on a football team will have a more closed cage on his face mask then that of a quarterback or receiver.

  • Goggles. Although goggles aren’t designed to protect your teeth, they are an essential part of your overall protective gear. Goggles are specifically helpful in small bat sports, such as Racquetball and tennis. When worn correctly, protective goggles guard your eyes and the bones surrounding them. If you play basketball or football and have had a previous eye injury, goggles can also help prevent it from being injured further, and give you the protection you need to play confidently.
  • Ear Protection. While most people don’t think about the ears when it comes to face protection, the ears are some of the most delicate and vulnerable parts of the face. In sports like wrestling and water polo, ear protection is required. This is important, seeing as ear injuries can easily create Oral & Maxillofacial pain down the road.
  • Mouth & Throat Protection. Talk to your dentist, and he or she will tell you that this is one of the most essential types of face protection you can wear. And for a good reason! Fitted mouthguards protect your teeth, dental arch, tongue, and surrounding tissues from impacts, abrasions, and cuts during high impact sports. Today, fitted mouthguards are required in high school field hockey, ice hockey, lacrosse, wrestling, and football. Mouth guards are inexpensive, effective, and easy to wear, which makes them a no-brainer when it comes to protecting your face and teeth. Throat guards take this protection to the next level and are required by some schools for high school hockey goalies, as well as some catchers in baseball and softball.

Protecting the Teeth During Sports

Did you know that approximately 39% of all dental injuries are related to sports injuries around the face or head? With a statistic like that in mind, it’s clear that protecting the teeth during high-impact sports is essential.

Sports like football, hockey, basketball, and other contact sports are common causes of concussions, tooth injuries, and more. While it may seem that these injuries are minimal, the truth is that they can cause long-lasting repercussions. Dental injuries typically take the form of chips and brakes, dislodged or knocked out teeth, and fractures, that can cause discomfort and pain for years down the road.

What to do if You Suffer a Head or Face Injury

Even if you take all precautions while playing a high-impact sport, face and head injuries are always a possibility. Here’s what to do if you suffer one of them while playing your favorite sport.

  • Stop playing immediately. This is possibly the most important tip to ensure healing and reduce the risk of further injury. If you continue to play after taking a hard hit or suffering an injury, you run the risk of making the injury worse or creating a situation that is harder to repair down the road. Instead, stop playing, remove yourself from the field, and assess the situation.
  • Deal with immediate needs. If there is bleeding, bruising, or pain, take some time now to deal with those things before you head to the doctor. Check out our recent post on how to deal with dental emergencies if the injury or suffering has to do with your teeth. In all other situations, use basic first aid skills to stop bleeding or resolve pain before you can seek help.
  • See your doctor or dentist. The next step is to make an appointment with a specialist. If it’s a head injury you’re suffering, make an appointment with your doctor. For tooth and mouth injuries, get into your dentist as quickly as possible. Keep in mind that some headaches and pains are caused by dental injuries, which may be underlying or hard to diagnose. With this in mind consider seeing a dentist even if your injuries seem to have more to do with your head.

Staying Safe During High-Impact Sports

Just because there’s a risk of harm associated with High Impact Sports does not mean you have to stop playing. Instead, take these steps to keep yourself safe, and protect the Integrity of your mouth, face, and teeth while you play your favorite sports.