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Most of us have had the occasional headache or neck ache. It comes with the stresses of the world we live in. We often overlook our teeth as a possible cause of headaches, but it should not be ruled out. The forces we each use, all day long, day after day, when eating, chewing, and talking can wreak havoc on us for many reasons. The alignment of teeth, the anatomy of the TMJ, tooth decay, bad habits such as clenching and grinding, etc. can all be causes of dental related headaches. Millions of people suffer from head and neck pain, and migraines due to issues with their teeth.

Where Does The Dentist Come In?

Your teeth, joints, muscles, and nerves all work together in the proper alignment and functioning of your jaw. When any part of this delicate balance is abused or neglected, painful conditions such as TMD, occlusal problems, and other serious dental health issues can develop. When our muscles are overworked or overstretched due to bite issues the muscles become sore and irritated. Studies have shown that about 3/4’s of all headaches are due to our bite. The pain and discomfort will vary from person to person but in many it can be life changing. Not only do the teeth need to be properly aligned but so do the surrounding muscles of the head and neck.

Head and Neck pain (as well as migraine headaches) can lead to the following symptoms:

-Poor sleep.

-Depression.

-Fatigue.

-Pain and discomfort.

Sleep Apnea and Snoring.

Many of these issues can be avoided with a proper diagnosis of dental issues. In many cases, your dentist can make simple adjustments to dramatically improve your situation. In others, more extensive treatment may be needed.

Common Dental Treatment For Headaches

Adjustment Of Teeth. Changing the direction, size, and position of slopes in the teeth will help correct and balance the bite. This is the simplest way to relieve the pressure on our muscles and can be achieved in a short dental visit.

Replacing Lost Teeth. Missing teeth may be one reason for causing imbalances in the muscles and teeth. If this happens, dental crowns, dental implants, and removable dentures will help maintain proper balance.

Opening the Bite. Loss of vertical height due to grinding, can cause TMJ misalignment and painful headaches. Restoring teeth to their proper height with crowns can give the relief needed.

Occlusal guards. These can be fabricated out of many combinations of materials to relieve many different dental issues. Grinding, clenching, TMJ decompression, etc. These can remove and dissipate painful forces which result in chronic headaches.

Medication. While certain drugs can be prescribed to bring about temporary relief, it is necessary to discover and address the root cause of the headaches. Muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatory medications can help break the cycle of pain, hormone replacement therapy also provides relief in some women. Unfortunately, use of pharmaceuticals is a temporary measure and will not be a long term cure.

Alternative Therapy. This can include acupuncture, chiropractics, change in diet, meditation, and exercise. Putting less strain on the TMJ can help relieve joint pain, just like with any other joint. Adopting a soft diet for a short time may be helpful for some patients. Corrective exercises and applying external heat can also bring relief from the pain.

Headaches Conclusion

The dental component of headaches is often overlooked. Many people often ignore dental issues when having headache issues but it can be a big mistake. If your dental condition is assessed and treated early enough, it can prevent further issues from developing. TMJ disorders, tooth damage, and even bone and gum recession need to be addressed early to avoid pain and headaches. Be smart about your health and do not ignore the warning signs. A simple problem can develop into a far more complex one over time.

As we are in the middle of the Holiday season there are lots of tempting treats to pick on. Most are okay in moderation but some are likely to create problems for your dentalDental Care Marielaina Perrone DDS health. Issues that could be created include tooth decay and even fractured teeth. Below are a listing of some to be careful of:

1. Popcorn. An old favorite usually enjoyed at the movies but around holiday time regular old popcorn becomes coated in caramel. Normally popcorn presents challenges for teeth due to biting on popcorn kernels and popcorn husks getting stuck between teeth. Those pesky popcorn kernels have been known to cause broken teeth and fracture fillings. Add the caramel and it is a recipe for disaster as the caramel masks the kernels and sticks in and around your teeth. This can break a tooth, or create an environment ripe for development of tooth decay. So think twice and beware if  indulging in this holiday favorite.

2. Dried Fruit. Seems like this would be a healthy snack but the sugars in the dried fruit are concentrated and their dry texture makes them stick longer to teeth. This allows acid producing bacteria in your mouth to have a chance to work on your tooth enamel. Be smart, and floss after or chose fresh fruit instead.

3. White Flour Crackers. We love these crackers with cheese spreads as a pre holiday meal snack. Did you know the bleached white flour turns almost immediately into sugar, which is food for the bacteria in your mouth to create an acid filled environment for tooth decay. Choose whole grain versions of these favorite crackers for better dental health as well as general health.

4. Candy Canes. A traditional favorite that can also cause fractures to teeth if you choose to bite into them. Sucking on hard candy makes the sugar acids linger longer in your mouth. Break off a small piece, and drink water after.

5. Christmas cookies and fudge.These are hard to pass up, especially at a party! Remember that very high sugar content, white flour and the stickiness are the contributors to tooth decay. Try eating some carrots or celery directly after you partake in these sweet treats.

6. Peanut brittle. Some peanut brittle is harder or stickier than others. You can pull out a crown or filling or break a tooth. Try moistening a small piece in your mouth to soften it before chewing. You will certainly need to floss after this snack!

Dental Hygiene Tips for Holidays

Drink Water. Plenty of it to swish and rinse your mouth.This will reduce the acid producing sugars and food debris from holiday snacking.

Crunch on raw veggies. They will help clear the stickiness and stimulate salivary flow.

Brush and Floss After Snacking. Brushing and flossing after snacking will neutralize the acid build up and not allow the tooth enamel to be broken down.

Enjoy the Holidays, just use your judgement to make good choices. You can still eat the special foods you love, just do it wisely. Remember, smiles are contagious, spread some holiday cheer with your beautiful smile!