Most people who have a toothache often experience a headache as well that is why they often wonder and ask “Can a toothache cause a headache?” There is a real chance that the headache experienced is because of your toothache. Obviously, this is a very bad situation as it can cause a lot of discomforts, especially if it is happening at night when you are about to rest.
Can a Toothache Cause a Headache: Possible Causes
The simplest answer to this common question is “Yes, it can.” A toothache can result from a number of causes, but in the case of a headache caused by a toothache, the trigeminal nerve may be the one to blame. This is the main nerve, the largest, and most sensitive that carries sensations from various parts of your face. It is connected to the jaws, gums, scalp, and teeth.
Since there is a lot of connection between these different parts of your face and your head, the pain in one can result in a headache. When they pick up the pain from, say an inflamed tooth, it can relay it to your head. This is how it works for most people who are experiencing toothaches and headache simultaneously. With that said, let’s dig deeper into the common causes of a toothache and find out how it can also cause you headaches.
- Abscessed Tooth
An abscessed tooth is a common tooth problem that many people face. When your tooth is damaged or has a crack, and there is inflammation around it or pus has developed inside the tooth itself, we call it abscessed tooth. You can imagine how excruciating the pain could be in such a case.
A bacterial infection inside the tooth usually causes this. Besides a toothache, an abscessed tooth can easily cause a headache as well. There are several other nerves in your face that pass by your jaws and teeth and one of them is the lingual nerve. Its main responsibility is to identify and send sensations and taste to the tongue.
This nerve can easily identify any pain in the surrounding areas, especially in the case of an abscessed tooth. This nerve can pick up the sensation from the nerve ending of a surrounding nerve and send the signal to the brain, resulting in a throbbing or shooting pain in the head.
In this scenario, most people can feel the pain from the side of the affected tooth and jaw going towards the side of the head. This is a kind of pain that can get unbearable pretty quickly. Thus, if you have an abscessed tooth situation, it is best to consult a dentist as soon as possible.
Cavities are pretty common too, mainly because a lot of us do not practice proper oral hygiene. Also, if you consume a lot of sugar, your teeth are susceptible to cavities. These usually form on the surface and root of the tooth and can result in pain. Cavities start slowly by first “eating” away the protective layer of the tooth or the enamel. Eventually, it can make a hole which exposes the nerves inside the tooth, making them vulnerable to food and drinks. This is why people with cavities often experience extreme sensitivity in their teeth.
The stimulus from the tooth is sent to the surrounding nerves that relay that pain to the head. Since all the facial nerves are nearby, they can pick up the pain. At times, it can be very painful. The trigeminal nerve also picks up the pain sensation happening at the nerve ends of the tooth and takes it to your head, which then starts to cause a headache.
The pain caused by cavities may be a dull throbbing pain as the nerves react to the stimulus. Medications can provide temporary relief for both the toothache and headache, but they cannot solve the problem entirely. You must take care of the cavities for permanent relief from a toothache and the complimentary headache that comes with it.
- Temporomandibular Disorder
Aside from dental problems causing toothache and headache together, a rare condition can also cause the same problem. An example of which is the temporomandibular disorder (TMD). In this condition, the temporomandibular muscles, located in your face, do not work as they should and get restricted. This results in a shooting pain in the teeth and jaws.
This condition may result from high levels of estrogen which can be a natural thing or a side-effect of birth control medication. It can also result from bruxism (involuntarily grinding your teeth while sleeping), chewing hard things, or even from the growth of wisdom teeth. The pain in the jaw and teeth area ultimately results in a headache as the nerves transfer the pain to your head. This can occur quite constantly if not treated.
Toothaches, even the light ones, can be a real annoyance and cause discomfort in your whole body. What is worst is that headaches with toothaches are common. However, at times, people do not realize that they are related. The complex network of nerves can at times result in a headache from pain in a different part of your body. Since the answer to the question “Can a toothache cause a headache?” is a “Yes” if you are suffering from this type of a headache, the best option is to consult your dentist. When the tooth problem is treated, the headaches should stop too.
Also, toothaches should be treated as soon as they occur because they can get worse over time and damage the affected tooth permanently. Not only can it cause a headache but may even cause stress and sleep problems. It can take a toll on your health and affect your daily activities, barring you from living at your best. You must also be mindful of your oral hygiene.
In case, your headache is getting worse, you might want to see your primary physician. They may not be able to treat the tooth problem, but they will find out whether or not your current tooth problem causes the headache.