When Headaches are Dental Related

man with bad headacheWhen your tooth hurts, it’s called a toothache, and as such, it’s most likely a dental issue. When your head hurts, it’s called a headache, but unlike a toothache, its origin isn’t always obvious. Headaches and migraines are among the most common forms of discomfort, and can indicate excessive stress and anxiety, a pinched nerve, a lack of oxygenated-blood to the brain, or a host of other possible conditions. In some cases, patients can endure their frequent headaches for years before finally learning that the problem stems from a dental-related issue. With a visit to our Livonia dentist’s office, Dr. Stewart can perform a comprehensive examination to determine if your chronic aches and pains can be resolved with an appropriate dental treatment.

OSA and Your Quality of Sleep

Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is a condition that involves constant, repetitive cycles during which you stop breathing in your sleep. The issue arises when oral tissues in your mouth and throat clog your airway, restricting your breath and resulting in the sound of snoring. The noise grows louder the more your airway is obstructed, until finally, your airway is completely blocked and you stop breathing. Your mind will panic and force your body awake to start breathing, but not enough to fully wake you up. The decreased sleep and oxygen can eventually affect your quality of life, leading to chronic headaches and migraines, symptoms of sleep deprivation, and an increased risk of cardiovascular problems.

TMJ and the Function of Your Jaw

TMJ stands for your temporomandibular joint, which is one of two joints that connect your lower jaw to your skull. TMJs allow your jaw to open and close as needed when you bite, chew, and speak. Normally, these joints move smoothly in tandem, allowing the pressure of your bite to be distributed evenly. When your bite is imbalanced, or when you habitually grind your teeth (bruxism), your TMJs can become damaged, misaligned, or inflamed, aggravating the trigeminal nerve that innervates the majority of your head, neck, and face. Besides painful, sore jaw muscles, TMJ disorder can also lead to severe migraines, frequent earaches, popping/clicking noises in your jaw, and a host of other craniofacial pains.

Find Relief

Because both OSA and TMJ disorder originate with your oral structures, Dr. Stewart often helps patients find relief by custom-designing specialized dental appliances. In the case of OSA, a sleep guard can hold your lower jaw in a forward position to prevent tissues from collapsing into your airway. TMJ disorder can often be alleviated with a mouthguard designed to prevent teeth from grinding together to give your jaw’s joints time to heal. After a comprehensive examination, Dr. Stewart will consult with you to determine what’s causing your headaches, and whether or not a custom dental appliance can help you find relief.


James Steward, DDS, and our compassionate staff proudly serve patients of all ages from Livonia, Farmington Hills, Plymouth, Northville, Dearborn Heights, Garden City, and all surrounding communities. To schedule a cosmetic consultation, call our office today at (734) 425-4400.