man laying in bed covering his faceIf you experience regular migraines and regular toothaches, you might wonder if they’re connected. The answer is that yes, they absolutely might be connected. There are many ways in which migraine can cause a toothache (as well as several ways your teeth might cause a migraine). 

If you don’t understand the true source of your pain, you might get several unnecessary, even potentially harmful treatments. Before starting treatment, it’s important to get a good diagnosis. At Bite Align in Fort Atkinson, dentist Dr. Jennifer Stafford understands the complex relationships between dental pain and headaches. Let her analyze the source of your pain and recommend a treatment that will actually work for you. 

Migraines Plus Tooth Pain

Migraines are centered in the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve carries pain signals from the entire facial area, from your forehead all the way down to your chin. Typically, migraine pain activates in the area covered by one trigeminal nerve–one side of the face or the other. 

However, migraine pain can manifest itself all up and down the trigeminal nerve area. This means that people experiencing migraine headaches might experience tooth pain as well as migraine headaches. This is actually fairly common. In fact, one relatively small study found that about 25% of people with migraine headaches also report related dental pain

Nor are migraines the only type of headache that can also result in tooth pain. In the same study, nearly ⅕ (19%) of people with tension headaches also reported tooth pain. 

It should be noted that in this study, the entire population had bruxing behavior (teeth clenching and grinding). However, just teeth clenching didn’t cause much tooth pain. In controls (those with bruxism but no headache), less than 7% reported tooth pain. Even in a study this small, that’s enough of a difference to suggest that there’s a meaningful association between headaches and tooth pain. 

Can Migraines Present as Just Tooth Pain?

But what if you have only toothache? Can that be a migraine, too? Yes, in some cases, your migraine might cause only tooth pain. 

Although migraines typically occur in the forehead on one side of the head, they can occur anywhere in the area covered by the trigeminal nerve. Migraines that occur in these other regions of the face are often described as “atypical” migraines. Sometimes people go to their dentist for a chronic toothache and get dental care, only to later learn that it was not, in fact, their teeth that were the source of pain.

In fact, migraines aren’t the only type of headache that might present primarily as a toothache. Consider this case study of four different types of headaches (migraine, cluster, paroxysmal hemicrania, and hemicrania continua), all presenting first as toothache

A comprehensive evaluation of any toothache can help get a proper diagnosis from your Fort Atkinson dentist before treatment begins. 

When to Suspect Migraines Might Be Causing Tooth Pain

So how do you know when migraines might be causing your tooth pain? Ask a doctor or a Fort Atkinson TMJ dentist about migraines when you have:

When your headaches and toothache occur at the same time, the simplest explanation is that they are linked. Use other items on this list to determine whether it’s more likely that tooth pains are causing your headaches, or the headaches are causing the tooth pain. 

One giveaway is that your tooth pain has classic migraine markers. One is that your toothaches respond to migraine triggers. If migraine triggers like hormone changes, stress, certain foods, caffeine, bright lights, strong smells, or exercise trigger your toothache, it’s probably migraines. 

Also, suspect migraines if your toothache comes with nausea, dizziness, and sensitivity to lights and sounds. 

You should also suspect migraines if they’re in your personal or family medical history.

TMJ is a common migraine trigger. Symptoms of TMJ can indicate that you actually have migraines. Be cautious, though. TMJ can cause tooth damage, which might cause legitimate toothaches. 

On the other hand, consider migraines if you don’t have a family history of oral health problems or if you have had good dental health generally. Before blaming toothache for your regular pain, look for evidence in your teeth. This might be a cavity, chipped tooth, cracked tooth, or something that shows up on the x-ray. While it’s possible there’s something you can’t see, it’s best to get a second opinion before getting an irreversible dental procedure based on no evidence beyond your pain. 

Toothache and Migraine Relief in Fort Atkinson

If you have a toothache that might be related to a migraine, let Fort Atkinson TMJ dentist Dr. Jennifer Stafford help. She can use scientific diagnostic tools to help you get a reliable diagnosis to start an effective treatment. 

Please call (920) 563-7323 or use our online form to request an appointment at Bite Align in Fort Atkinson, across from Bumper to Bumper Auto Parts near Johnson Bank.