Chronic headaches can stop you in your tracks, making even your favorite things seem like too much to handle. In today’s digital age, it’s tough to pinpoint exactly what’s causing the pain in your temples: Is it too much blue light? Dehydration? Not enough sleep?
Among the many possibilities, Madison Family Dental is seeing one headache culprit pop up more frequently: a misaligned bite.
Here’s everything you need to know about chronic headaches caused by malocclusion, or teeth misalignment, which affects more than one-fifth of all Americans.
How can a misaligned bite cause chronic pain and headaches?
A misaligned bite prevents your jaw and neck muscles from ever fully relaxing.
Imagine if your legs had to work to hold a squat all day long, or if your arm always had to be extended above your head. Eventually, those muscles would get pretty fatigued — and so would all of the surrounding muscle groups (like your back and shoulders) as they tried to help out. This is what happens with your jaw.
Here’s an experiment for you: Look up to the ceiling and tap your teeth together. Now look down at the floor and do the same thing. Your bite feels different depending on how your head and neck are positioned — proof that all of your muscles interact with each other!
When your temporomandibular joint, commonly called the TMJ, isn’t able to completely relax, it puts a lot of stress on your surrounding muscles. This stress can then cause you to inadvertently clench up even more, only making the problem worse.
Add teeth grinding and poor posture into the mix (trust us, we’re all guilty of spending too much time slouched over a computer or phone screen) and this tension can build into quite the headache.
What are the symptoms of headaches caused by bite misalignment?
Symptoms of bite misalignment are often innocuous and difficult to spot, so it’s a good idea to turn to your dentist for a specific diagnosis.
With that said, here are a few key things to look for if you think you might be experiencing chronic headaches as the result of misaligned teeth:
- Cracking and popping in your jaw when you chew, yawn, or talk — especially if it is associated with any type of pain
- Difficulty moving your jaw or “locked jaw” where it becomes completely frozen
- One side of your bite hitting first when you tap your teeth together — in a healthy, aligned jaw, all your teeth should touch at about the same time
How can you treat the pain of bite misalignment?
We have good news for anyone suffering from chronic headaches caused by a misaligned bite: You don’t have to live in pain. Depending on your unique circumstances, a range of techniques might help alleviate your symptoms.
One of the most common solutions is a custom-fitted dental appliance. At Madison Family Dental, we offer custom mouth guards that can help your jaw relax to avoid muscle stress, clenching, and grinding.
Other options include:
- Physical therapy and jaw-strengthening exercises
- Meditation to relax your muscles and alleviate overall stress
- Adjustments to the way you stand, sit, and sleep to help properly position your jaw
- Ice or hot packs to treat acute pain