Most people who suffer from severe headaches don’t think about going to their dentist to get help. But a dentist may be the right professional to turn to if your physician has not been able to determine the root cause of your pain. But first, it’s important to determine whether the headaches you are experiencing fit into a primary or secondary category.
Primary headaches are migraines, tension headaches, and cluster headaches. Many dentists do see patients with primary headache problems, but it’s for the secondary type of headache that they can be particularly effective.
Secondary headaches can be caused by many things, but in particular, trauma to the temporomandibular joint. The temporomandibular joint is your jaw joint and problems in this area are commonly referred to as TMJ. A traumatized jaw joint can be the result of injury, a structural deficiency, a malocclusion (bad bite), newly placed or worn dental work, oral disease, or sleep bruxism (teeth grinding and clenching at night).
Today, many dentists are trained in assessing and treating these kinds of orofacial pain problems. In fact, in 2020, the American Dental Association approved orofacial pain as a dental specialty. Orofacial pain specialists are now board-certified dental specialists who limit their care to patients with orofacial pain disorders. Dentists trained in this special field are increasingly important as health team members in the diagnosis and treatment of severe and persistent headaches that are TMJ-related.
The Negative Effects Of Sleep Bruxism
If you clench or grind your teeth at night, you are not alone. Millions of Americans do it. Why does bruxism often cause severe headaches? The constant pressure is being exerted by the act of clenching and grinding your teeth can cause trauma to your TMJs. Next, the nerves become agitated, and here comes pain. But what’s tricky is that pain from TMJ can show up in other places on your body, such as your neck, your face, or even your head. This is called referred pain. Your TM joints are positioned very close to your cranial nerves, and severe headaches are often the result.
So, Can A Dentist Cure Your Headaches?
If you feel your headaches could be caused by teeth grinding and clenching (at night or during the day, or both), now’s the time to seek the help of an orofacial pain specialist. They will not only be able to determine the source of your pain, but will put a treatment plan in place that may include massage, relaxation techniques, a nightguard to protect your teeth, or even BOTOX®. I’ve been treating patients with these problems for over 3 years, and in most cases, a change in lifestyle to reduce bruxism combined with treatment, the outcomes are very positive.
Start by asking your physician or dentist for a referral to an orofacial pain specialist or check out the AAOP website, which is an organization dedicated to providing referrals and support for suffering headache patients like you.
If you live or work in the NYC or Long Island metro area, feel free to call my office to make an appointment for a consultation. I see patients in person or by telemedicine on Zoom. NYC 212-265-0110 Hauppauge 631-265-3136