Teeth Pain and Headaches
Many teeth pain cases referred to Nourish Dental Care have some surprising effects, such as headaches. Our head, neck and shoulder areas are intricately linked, and it can often be hard to tell the pain apart.
Madam Wong (not her real name) is in her late 50s, and came to our dental clinic with complaints of a terrible toothache. We found a small cavity on one of her upper right molars upon examination. We discharged her without further event after a dental filling procedure.
She returned a week later with further complaints of recurrent pain on the right side of her face. What was unusual this time, was her description of her facial pain as ‘throbbing’ or ‘pulsating’. She felt nauseous whenever exposed to bright lights, such as sunlight or indoor UV lights.
Further Examination & Subsequent Diagnosis of Facial Migraine
Dental examination of her tooth filling and neighbouring teeth showed no abnormalities. We then carried out more dental tests and investigations, in a bid to find out what the problem was. These tests revealed that Madam Wong was actually suffering from an atypical form of migraine. Known as Facial Migraine, they can mimic a toothache.
Different Types of Migraines
There are many different types of migraines, of which some don’t even cause any pain! According to the American Migraine Foundation, here are some common types of migraines:
- Migraine with Aura (Complicated Migraine)
- Migraine Without Aura (Common Migraine)
- Migraine Without Head Pain
- Hemiplegic Migraine
- Retinal Migraine
- Chronic Migraine
- Ice Pick Headaches
- Cluster Headaches
- Cervicogenic Headaches
Teeth Pain & Orofacial Pain Disorders
Not all dentists or dental surgeons are trained to recognise or treat orofacial pain disorders. Orofacial pain is a type of dental specialisation* that deals with such disorders.
Some causes of orofacial pain are musculoskeletal disorders such as TMD (Temporomandibular Disorders). Or facial pain disorders such as Trigeminal Neuralgia, Atypical Facial Pain or Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia. It is easy to confuse migraine localised to facial pain for dental or orofacial pain.
It takes a trained pain management doctor to make a proper diagnosis, and follow through with the right treatments.
*As of March 30, 2020, the ADA (American Dental Association) has officially recognised Orofacial Pain as its 12th dental speciality. Any reference to ‘specialisation’ is made in the context of the United States of America. Read more in our FAQs.
Anti-Migraine Treatments & Pain Management Plans
Madam Wong’s pain subsided, after I placed her on anti-migraine therapy that was specific to her needs. Every patient requires proper evaluation, in order to employ the most effective pain management plan.
Headaches Do Not Necessarily Need to be in the Head
In conclusion, pain from headaches do not necessarily mean that your head is the cause of the pain. Sometimes, it can cause teeth pain, and even in other surrounding anatomical areas such as your face, neck or shoulders.
Thorough examinations and careful investigations are a must. A misdiagnosis only prolongs the patient’s pain and suffering. On top of that, they may end up paying exorbitant amounts for unnecessary dental treatments, such as root canals or teeth extractions.
How Nourish Dental Care Can Help
Nourish Dental Care focuses on dental pain management, orofacial pain, dental implants and more. Dr. Eric Chionh is formally trained in Oral Medicine and Orofacial Pain, and holds a Singapore Dental Council approved qualification in Oral Medicine. You can find out more about him and our dental practice on our About Page.