Although many would argue that an appointment with their dentist is a sure way to develop a headache, recent findings have shown that certain dental treatments can actually relieve or reduce the frequency of painful headaches. Migraine or tension headaches affect over 40 million Americans each and every year. Though the causes of migraines are not fully understood, experts believe that they may be triggered by over-activity of a portion of the brainstem known as the “migraine generator.” This area of the brain serves as a relay station for information passing to and from the areas of the face and the jaw to the brain. It is believed that too much activity through this area, such as contraction of the jaw muscles, may actually trigger the onset of a migraine attack.
Excessive muscular activity in the head and neck region, particularly with the muscles of the jaw, require an increased amount of input to this trigger area. Even minor jaw contractive forces and bite discrepancies can be enough to elicit the onset of a migraine. Individuals who must cope with heightened levels of stress, especially when combined with grinding or clenching of their teeth, are typically at greater risk for these headaches. With proper diagnoses and the appropriate use to certain modern-day dental appliances, your dentist can alleviate and sometimes eliminate migraine pain.
Recent studies have shown that certain dental treatments can play an important role in reducing the number and the intensity of migraine headaches. By reducing and harmonizing the forces that patients place on their jaws and facial muscles, there is a significant decrease in the amount of activity being sent to the “migraine generator.” Research in neuromuscular science has shown that when a patient wears a dental bite appliance the destructive forces on the jaw muscles is reduced by up to 70%. Furthermore, these appliances can actually help the brain deprogram or condition itself to diminish teeth grinding and clenching tendencies.
It goes without saying, that chronic headache pain can significantly affect a person’s quality of life. If left untreated, this debilitating pain can negatively impact an individual’s personal, family and work experiences. Dental appliances alone are certainly not the only answer to migraine headaches, but they may significantly reduce what triggers these attacks, and perhaps even more important, prevent the dependency on pharmacologic treatment alone. If you are suffering from frequent headaches or migraines, give your dentist a call and have a discussion on certain available treatments, your quality of life is worth it.