How are migraines linked to your mouth?
Migraines headaches are one of the leading causes of disability in the world.
Migraines disrupt every aspect of your life. 91% of migraine sufferers cannot work during a migraine, 70% report problems in their marriage, 24% have visited emergency care due to the severity of the pain, 59% miss family or social events and the list goes on and on.
Migraines are neuro-vascular headaches, what this means is that a migraine may be caused by a change in nerve function, blood flow or both. Although the cause of a patient’s migraine presentation is difficult to identify at times (trauma, structural imbalance, chemical imbalance) certain triggers are fairly consistent among patients ex:
- hormonal changes,
- dramatic weather changes,
- bright lights,
- loud sound.
All of these changes can affect blood circulation and/or pressure in the body.
The majority of the blood and nerves that travel to your brain go along the vertebrae in your neck and up through the large hole at the base of your skull known as the foremen magnum. The two vertebrae at the top of your neck are called the atlas and the axis. They are connected to many muscles, ligaments and tendons that help support your head and neck but also give it the mobility to look in multiple directions.
There is a lot of mobility in this area, which leads to a higher risk of instability or injury. When the atlas bone (the red one in the photo) is out of alignment it can change the flow of blood both in and out of your skull and also irritate the nerves going into your head. Think of how an orange seed will block the flow of juice up or down a straw.
Disruption of the flow of blood can cause pressure build up. Also, pressure on the nerves can cause many painful effects.
Now we will get to how this connects to your mouth.
Your lower jaw is connected to your skull by two joints and many muscles. The joints are called temporomandibular joints, dysfunction of the Temporomandibular joint has the acronym TMD)
The muscles that connect your jawbone and the muscles that support your neck and head are all closely connected. When any one of them is tense it can cause tension in all of the other ones. If there is asymmetry in this tension due to a bite imbalance it can lead to a shift in the atlas bone and cause the effects we mentioned above. The effects on the nerves and the blood flow are linked with migraines.
Signs your jaw may be involved in your headaches (symptoms of TMD) are:
- Sensitive or sore teeth
- Sore jaw muscles
- Pain in the head, neck and/or shoulders
- Facial pain
- Ringing in the ears
- Locking of the jaw
- Clicking/popping of jaw
- Limited jaw movement
- Worn/chipped teeth
If you have any of these symptoms please discuss them with your dentist.
There are many solutions that your dentist can offer to help alleviate many of these symptoms.
Credit for the photos: