June is Headache Awareness Month and the perfect time to take a few minutes to explore how and why dentistry can help to eliminate headaches and migraines! A Whole Health approach to your dental care is likely the perfect solution to chronic pain in the head and neck.
Unfortunately, headache is poorly understood and poorly treated with most approaches being minimally beneficial or very temporary. The symptoms are sort of managed with medication like Imitrex for migraines or Excedrin for a ‘regular headaches’ and the suggestion is always to minimize stress and it will get better. While a stress-free life sounds like a great thing, it’s also nearly impossible and stress isn’t really the cause anyway!
What physicians and most dentists overlook is the importance of your bite. Physicians rely on dentists to take care of the mouth and dentists look for cavities in the teeth so unfortunately no one truly looks at the bite and supporting structures and catches the culprit! However, there are some pretty typical things that are seen in a patient with a headache, and those shine a light on the underlying issues and cause of head and neck pain – and, fortunately, a solution!
In a nutshell, we know the bite is supposed to close together so that just the tip of your lower teeth fits behind the upper teeth. Also, there shouldn’t be much wear on the teeth, either the front teeth or the back. If either of those isn’t the case, there is a very good chance that the pain and headaches are at least partly from the way the bite fits.
In fact, the majority of people with chronic headache or head and neck pain, exhibit a number of consistent signs of a lack of harmony between the teeth, joints, and muscles. The muscles are forced to work in a way that causes a buildup of lactic acid in the muscles and muscle splinting, cramps, and trigger point pain issues. Often these cramps are felt in the temples as well as the neck and shoulders and can even create issues as seemingly remote as numb fingertips!
The most common approaches to controlling headache and head and neck pain as well as migraine are focused on limiting the pain through medication. Imitrex or botox will create short-term relief of symptoms, but neither is an effective long-term solution as they are designed to target the symptoms and not the source. Similarly, chiropractic care often helps, but without stabilizing the bite long-term the adjustment is not lasting.
At Aesthetic Dentistry of Georgetown, we are focused on Whole Health Dentistry and approach every patient with a simple formula. Through a series of six screenings, we help you to understand how your mouth may be creating issues in other parts of the body. A risk assessment will highlight areas that may be particularly important to manage. Chronic diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure have a huge impact on the importance of healthy teeth and gums. In fact, there are many systemic issues that are made worse and harder to manage when the mouth isn’t healthy. We also perform a Head and Neck Cancer Screening both in and around your mouth. In the United States, a new case of oral cancer is diagnosed an average of every 81/2 minutes – obviously the sooner this is found, the easier it is to treat! Then we do both a bite and airway screening. As these two things are intimately related, and either can create headache or migraine-type pain, it is critical that you are made aware of what is happening with your bite and the function of your airway. And, finally, as with a ‘regular dentist’ we will also do a thorough screening of your teeth and gums to ensure you have the opportunity to enjoy perfect health and keep your teeth for life.
Our job is to fully arm you with an understanding of your mouth and the impact it has on your body – whether it is causing headaches or making it harder to keep blood pressure and blood sugar under control, or simply a spot of decay that could use attention. Your job is to decide what you would like to address. If you happen to have chronic head or neck pain, headaches, or have been diagnosed with migraines, there’s a very good chance you have options and can eliminate them and that ever-present fear of pain and live your life again!