If you have a headache, quite often the first port of call is the medicine cabinet for pain relief or a visit to the doctors. However, if the problem persists it might be something you should mention to your dentist as the persistent cause may lie inside your mouth.
The cause of your headaches could actually be the way your teeth meet when your jaws bite together, otherwise known as dental occlusion.
Temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) disorder is a neuromuscular jaw condition caused by an imbalanced bite. When the joint causes pressure to be put on the nerves muscles and blood vessels that pass near the head, the result can be headaches and migraines, a condition that affects one in seven people in the UK.
Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, believes this information serves as a timely reminder to arrange a visit to the dentist during National Smile Month, which runs until 15 June 2011.
Dr Carter said: ‘If you suffer from continual headaches or migraines, especially first thing in the morning, pain behind your eyes, sinus pains and pains in the neck or shoulders, you should consider visiting your dentist, as well as a doctor, as soon as possible.
‘Many people have imperfect dental occlusion yet never show symptoms as they adjust to their problem. For those who do suffer, teeth and gums may be affected straight away, and instead of headaches you may encounter broken teeth, fillings, loose teeth and toothache with no apparent cause. If you have any of these problems, visit a dentist immediately.’
Depending on the problems you are having, it can be possible to spot the signs of dental malocclusion. Your dentist may be able to help you or may refer you to a specialist who deals with occlusal problems.
Your teeth may need to be carefully adjusted to meet evenly, as changing the direction and position of the slopes that guide your teeth together can often help reposition the jaw. If your teeth are too far out of line or in a totally incorrect bite position, it may be necessary to fit a brace to move them into a better position.
As the temporo-mandibular joint needs equal support from both sides of both jaws, the chewing action is designed to work properly only when all your teeth are present and in the correct position. Therefore, missing teeth may need to be replaced either with a partial denture or bridgework.
As with any joint pain, it can help to put less stress on the joint. So a soft diet can be helpful, as can corrective exercises and external heat. Physiotherapy exercises can often help, and your dentist may be able to show some of these to you. As it is such a specialist area within dentistry, your dentist may wish to refer you to an expert.
For information and free expert advice on oral health issues call the Foundation’s Dental Helpline on 0845 063 1188, or alternatively visit www.dentalhealth.org.