Ask most people who suffer from migraines which healthcare provider they went to for help with their migraines, and very few would say their dentist. Yet dentists who understand how the mouth and jaw can affect other parts of the body may be precisely the healthcare provider who could do the most to help alleviate migraines.
Triggers and Causes of Migraines
There are many potential triggers and causes of migraine headaches, including genetic factors, changes in hormones, bright lights and sounds, emotional and physical stress, certain foods and medications, and even changes in the weather. (Note that causes and triggers are different. Triggers are stimuli that lead to something like the onset of a migraine while a cause is an underlying reason the migraines happen at all in the first place.)
Another possible cause is irritation of the trigeminal nerve, or to be more precise, irritation to either one or both of the trigeminal nerves that run through either side of the face. These nerves each branch out into three sections (the reason it’s “tri”-geminal) which run to the scalp, forehead, eyes, eyebrows, and nose; sinuses, nasal cavity, palate, teeth, gums, and upper jaw; and the temple, external ear, lower lip, and lower jaw.
The trigeminal nerves are necessary for proper functioning of the jaw. When a problem with the nerve develops, this is called trigeminal neuralgia. Inflammation and irritation of the trigeminal nerve can cause pain in any area of the face or head it reaches, including severe eye pain that’s commonly associated with migraines.
Now that you’ve had that brief anatomy lesson, you can see how intricately linked the jaw is to the rest of the face via the trigeminal nerves. Because the jaw is so closely connected to the trigeminal nerve, even a small misalignment in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) can affect other parts of the system.
How a Dentist Can Help with Migraines
It’s by addressing the health of the TMJ that a dentist can help bring relief to migraine sufferers. I do this for my patients with migraines using my holistic approach to dentistry and skills in physiologic dentistry and physiologic orthodontics, which use dental and orthodontic treatment to treat pain and problems in the rest of the body.
Treating migraines takes place in two phases. In Phase 1, a temporary oral appliance is made that the patient wears until they’re comfortable. In Phase 2, the changes are made permanent through crowns, veneers, or orthodontics. Reduction or elimination of migraine pain typically occurs in Phase 1, which is a relief to my patients and very gratifying to me that I’m able to help improve their quality of life in such a meaningful way.
Keep Seeking Treatment
There must be hundreds of thousands – maybe millions – of people in North America suffering from regular migraines and headaches who haven’t had success in treating them. I’ve had some patients who had seen their family doctor, a chiropractor, a neurologist, and a physiotherapist to find a solution, but nothing lasted until they finally made the connection between oral health and head pain and came to me.
If you’re in the same boat, I urge you to keep looking for relief from your migraine pain. Look for a dentist with experience in this area and see if there’s anything they can do. You may be surprised to find they have the answers you’ve been looking for.