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AACD Dentist Advice: Taking the Bite Out of Migraines

April 13, 2015 by AACD Executive Office

6 Painful Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

Spring weather fluctuations can trigger serious migraine pain for millions of sufferers each year.   What most don’t consider is that migraine pain may also be caused by treatable dental conditions.  American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry® (AACD) members shed light on this serious issue leading into National Migraine Awareness Month in June.
Since the proximity of the jaw to the brain is so close there could be a link between headaches (migraines) and dental health, says Dr. Jack Ringer, president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and a cosmetic dentist in Orange County, California.  He points to several factors that can cause abnormal stimulation which can be diagnosed and treated by a dental professional.

Stress & Teeth Grinding

Sometimes an abnormal bite can cause patients to clench, grind or shift to find a comfortable position for the top and bottom teeth to mesh together, Dr. Ringer notes. When this persists, damage to the TMJ (jaw joint) can occur which can lead to migraines.   “Stress also causes many patients to clench their teeth,” Dr. Ringer said. “This creates muscle tension in the head and neck area and in turn nerve stimulation leading to headaches.”
Analyzing a patient’s bite and making necessary adjustments or treating the teeth can help reverse migraines headaches caused by teeth misalignment and stress-related teeth grinding.


Teeth or gum infections can also lead to migraines.  Dr. Ringer notes that root canal therapy and periodontal (gum) therapy can help eliminate head and neck pain associated with these conditions.
Impacted wisdom teeth can also cause pressure or infections where they are located which can lead to head and neck pain. Removal of these teeth will eliminate these symptoms if the patient’s pain was caused by impactions.

6 Telltale Symptoms

Here are some questions that will help determine whether dental issues are the cause of your migraines.

  • Do you wake up in the morning with sore or painful jaw muscles?

  • Are your headaches often in the areas of the temples and/or back of the neck?

  • Do you have pain in the upper shoulder or trapezius area?

  • Do you have a sensation that your bite doesn’t feel right or your bite changes?

  • Have you ever heard a clicking or a grinding sound in your jaw joint?

  • Do you ever have pain or discomfort while chewing, especially gum?



Answering “yes” to one or more of these symptoms should trigger a comprehensive oral health evaluation to determine whether a tooth problem is the root cause of migraine pain.
Dr. Peter Auster, an AACD dentist and past president of the New York Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, says one treatment option used frequently is an oral appliance that only allows contact on one or several front teeth. The back teeth are prevented from touching so the temporalis muscle, which runs to the top of the lower jaw, does not bulge or contract as strongly. This allows for decreased muscle stress and less frequent morning headaches.  Neuromuscular dentistry is another treatment which realigns bite, teeth, jaw and joints to their optimal position using a special orthotic and  “TENS” therapy, which gently relaxes jaw muscles.
While a patient with a history of severe headaches should see his/her physician to determine if there is an obvious medical cause, Dr. Auster notes that a conservative dental approach can work in many cases.
 “Dentistry might not always be the answer to migraines but I have used a variety of treatment options with success,” Dr. Auster said.  He points to one patient who suffered from headaches for over twenty years whose headaches disappeared after treatment began.

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