migraine headache pain

What is a Migraine Headache? How can a Dentist Help Me?

Migraine headaches are classified as a primary headache, one that is not caused by another condition. It is the condition itself. Along with migraines, tension headaches are also primary headaches.  A person experiencing a migraine headache characteristically feels an intense throbbing pain on just one side of the head. It is often accompanied by a heightened sensitivity to light, sound, and smell. Nausea and vomiting are also common. Migraines are miserable. However, a dentist may be able to help.

One third of people experience a less common characteristic of migraine headache known as an aura before its onset. Auras are visual and sensory disturbances that typically last between 5 and 60 minutes. They can include seeing flickering lights, or spots, a partial loss of vision, numbness, a tactile feeling of pins and needles, weakness and difficulty speaking. Most people who have recurrent migraines have experienced them for many years and are quite familiar with the symptoms. Anyone experiencing them for the first time should see a doctor immediately. Be aware that aura symptoms could also indicate stroke or meningitis.

The causative nature of migraine is not fully understood; however, they are known to run in families. Migraines occur in both adults and children. They are three times more likely to develop in females.  Migraine headaches tend to be recurrent with each attack lasting up to 3 days. Migraines are commonly a troubling and frustrating life-long condition.  Attack frequency can range from monthly to several times a week to once a year.

Recognized Migraine Triggers Include:

Treatment for migraines mostly relies on medication to reduce the frequency of symptoms or dull the pain. Neither is adequate, much of the time, leaving migraine suffers feeling alone and hopeless.Self-help for migraines may include resting in a dark quiet place, placing an ice pack or cold cloth on the forehead or drinking water. Ask someone to rub your head, neck or temples. Apply gentle, steady, rotating pressure to the painful area of your head with your index finger or thumb.

How can a Dentist Help?

There is a strong relationship between clenching, grinding and the precipitation or triggering of headaches. Symptoms associated with the articulating joints of the jaw (TMJ) include clicking of the joint, tenderness, swelling, locking and difficulty chewing. Pain can also develop in the ear, neck, head, and back.

Stress is the most common factor that contributes to clenching of the teeth. This occurs when individuals are sleep deprived, anxious, irritated or worried. When you sleep, you have no control over clenching. If you have the habit of clenching during the day, you will clench while asleep as well. Dentists can fabricate custom made jaw stabilization appliance known as a de-programmer so that you are unable to clench or grind while you sleep. Appliances to prevent snoring and manage sleep apnea are helpful for these individuals as well.

Do it yourself or over the counter appliances can cause considerable damage to your teeth and jaws and are not recommended. These “do-it-yourself” remedies often do not result in a proper fit and often cause you to clench more. They can be highly uncomfortable as well.  Remember, drugs have many side effects and rarely address the cause of migraines. Specific dental appliances and the expertise of the highly trained dentist that fabricates them just might be the relief you have overlooked.