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  • Writer's pictureDr. T.J. Emmer

What kind of dental issues can contribute to headaches?

Updated: Sep 6, 2018

If you find yourself with frequent headaches it's no secret that they can be caused from a wide variety of issues. Lack of sleep, dehydration, allergies, neck issues, stress, sleep disorders and many other factors may be contributing to your pain.

A headache can also be directly attributed to things going on in your mouth or jaw.

It’s very important is to try and isolate the contributing factors and develop a plan of attack.

As a prosthodontist, I’m focused not only on the health and function of your teeth, but also in the treatment and handling of your entire mouth and jaw structures. My experience includes the treatment of temporomandibular disorders (TMJ/TMD) and other issues that might be contributing to your headaches.

Let’s explore what some of those might be.

Occlusion Discrepancies

Occlusion refers to the relationship opposing teeth have to one another when your jaw is closed – so basically, the way your teeth come together when your jaw is at rest or you are engaged in chewing. If there are discrepancies in how your teeth meet, this can cause undue stress, tenderness in your gums and teeth, and even jaw pain or headaches.

This is one of the things we would examine when determining if there are oral issues contributing to your headaches. Treatment for occlusion discrepancies varies from simple bite adjustments to longer-term manipulation or a referral to an orthodontist or other specialist.

Stress Related Clenching or Grinding

This is also known as Bruxism and it is often something people do unconsciously. Stress, anger, frustration, heavy exercise or lifting – all of these can lead to clenching or gnashing of teeth that happens during the day. Typically, “grinding” happens at night while you are asleep and is often accompanies by other sleep disorders such as snoring or sleep apnea.

Treatment plans for this type of disorder vary and depend on the severity of the Bruxism as well as the resulting symptoms which can range from minor wear on teeth to broken teeth and jaw disorders. We may prescribe relaxation techniques, refer you to a therapist who can work with you or prescribe medications or suggest a mouth guard.

Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) occurs when your upper airway passages are obstructed by soft tissues while you are sleeping causing to be deprived of oxygen or minimizing your airflow for short periods of time. Symptoms typically include loud snoring and gasping noises that happen while you are sleeping, excessive drowsiness during the day and morning headaches. Fixing your sleep apnea can also help with your headaches.

TMJ/TMD Induced

Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) or a temporomandibular disorders (TMD) can induce headaches that are often mis-diagnosed as the more common stress induced or tension headaches. However, headaches caused by TMJ/TMD are more easily preventable in most case so it's certainly worth ruling them out! These type of headaches are often accompanied by noise in your jawbone temporomandibular, stiffness in your jaw, tenderness in your face or jawline and ear or toothaches.


Headaches can also be caused by oral infections in your teeth, gums, soft tissues or jaw. These are more dangerous and need to be diagnosed and treated quickly to avoid long-term negative effects.

Physical Issues

You may be experiencing headaches because of muscle soreness or tightness related to changes in your daytime posture or sleeping positions, exercise routines and even issues with your neck or spine. These too are important factors to rule out or diagnose.

Medical Issues

Of course, headaches can also be caused by a metabolic insufficiency, medicines you may be taking, and more serious conditions such as stroke or other neurological disorders.

If you suffer from regular headaches and suspect there may be something going on inside your mouth or jaw that is contributing to your discomfort or pain, please schedule an initial consultation. Together we can determine the best plan of attack to alleviate contributing factors, minimize your pain and control any related risks.

1 Comment

Nov 06, 2018

As a patient for over 42 years, formerly of retired Dr. Emmer (Senior) and currently of Dr. Emmer, Jr., my loyalty speaks for itself.  The fact that they have the longest running family practice in the Morris County area in the field of prosthetic dentistry is proof that their operation, in my opinion, has set the standard for excellence.   Whether it is for a routine visit or a more advanced procedure, I am confident that I will receive the highest quality treatment, not just for my health, but also on a personal level.  Not once have I felt that I was just another patient with a defined time for my appointment.  Our conversations are always relaxed and family-friendly.  During…

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