Every year, nearly 45 million Americans complain about headaches. That means that more than 16.5 percent of the national population deals with some form of internal head pain. Headaches are, in fact, the most commonly reported medical problem. There are, of course, different types of headaches – tension, migraine, and cluster – and while they’re rarely life-threatening, they can wreak havoc on one’s quality of life. Fortunately, many headaches can be controlled with proper dental care. Who knew?
What’s Behind Chronic Headaches and Migraines?
There are significant differences between a basic or a recurring tension headache and a full-blown migraine. Tension headaches are the most common forms of head pain, creating discomfort in 80 to 90 percent of the population. Also known as stress headaches, tension headaches are placed into two categories: episodic and chronic. Headaches experienced at a rate of less than 15 per month are considered episodic; those experienced more than 15 times per month or excessively on a long-term basis are labeled as chronic.
Migraines, however, are more than bad headaches. While both tension and migraine headaches can include throbbing or pulsating pain in a specific location or sensitivity to light or sound, migraines pump up the volume on those symptoms and create so many more. Aura changes (visual zigzags, color changes, flashing lights), nausea, vomiting, and disability are potential outcomes for those suffering migraines. Approximately five million Americans experience a migraine on a monthly basis, and 80 percent of migraine victims have a family history of the condition. Unlike basic headaches, the migraine is a neurological disease that can affect the entire body and even lead to permanent disability.
Cluster headaches are often even more painful than migraines. Unlike other headaches, cluster headaches typically occur in patterns. Victims of clusters may develop their headaches at specific seasons of the year or during stressful life situations. Episodic clusters may last a week and then not show up again for a year while chronic clusters may last a year or longer with relatively short breaks.
As maddening as the pain of headaches can be, there’s often a simple solution: See your dentist.
How Can Your Mouth Harm Your Mind?
According to the American Academy of Crainofacial Pain (AACF), 80 percent of all headaches are caused by muscular tension. The face and skull are connected through a complex range of bones, muscles, and tissues. When they work together, all is right in the world. But when people grind their teeth, ignore proper oral health care, or avoid seeing their dentist, the muscles and bones can weaken and change. Something as simple as a tired bite can overwork facial muscles to such a degree that tension builds in the brain and leads to chronic tension headaches.
TMJ disorder and bruxism (grinding of teeth) can, over time, create a permanent shift in the jawline. The ongoing facial and head tension build up and create muscular weakness in the head, neck, and shoulders. As life stresses occur, it becomes harder to support that collapsing foundation, and tension manifests itself as headaches.
Pain is a symptom caused by the body to warn that something is wrong. Modern cosmetic dentistry is so advanced that a competent dentist can easily target and correct dental-related headache issues. While the triggers of your headaches or migraines may be outside of the dental field, stopping them could also be as easy as getting fitted for a bridge, realigning the jaw, or wearing and occlusal splint to stop the night grinding. Why spend another day in pain?
Contact Sachar Dental, conveniently located in Midtown Manhattan, to find professional solutions for your headache woes.