The Surprising Link Between Cavities and Headaches

The Surprising Link Between Cavities and Headaches

Do you ever get a headache and can’t figure out why? Well, it might not be just stress that’s causing your headaches. Believe it or not, there is a link between cavities and headaches (although it isn’t super common). In fact, there are many oral health reasons for why you have a headache. In this article, we will discuss the link between cavities and headaches, other ways your oral health can cause headaches, as well as what you can do to treat them.

Can Cavities Cause Headaches?

The link between cavities and headaches is directly attributed to a medical phenomenon called referred pain. Referred pain is when you feel pain in one area of your body, but the source of the pain is actually coming from another area. A good example of this is a brain freeze. When you eat or drink something cold too quickly, you can get a “brain freeze” because the nerves in your brain are reacting to the cold temperature. In the case of cavities and headaches, the pain from the cavity is being referred to your head.

Your teeth are highly innervated, meaning that they have a lot of nerve endings. The nerves of your tooth are located in the pulp of your teeth, and can feel pain in the pulp and dentin areas. When a cavity is left untreated, the bacteria and decay can break down the enamel of your teeth (the hard outer surface). Once it reaches the dentin, it can begin to irritate these nerve endings. If the pain is intense enough, it can then refer to your head (on the same side as the cavity), which results in a headache.

Interestingly, women are more likely to experience headaches due to cavities than men. There is also some evidence to show that younger people are more likely to experience headaches from cavities than older people.

Other Ways Oral Health Can Cause Headaches

Aside from cavities, there are other ways that your oral health can contribute to headaches. These links are less researched, so should be taken with a grain of salt, but are worth mentioning.

  • Grinding (Bruxism): Clenching and grinding your teeth (bruxism) has been seen in a high amount of people who have headaches. Grinding your teeth can put a lot of pressure on your temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which is the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull. If you grind your teeth often enough, it can result in inflammation of the TMJ, which could then refer pain to your head and cause a headache.
  • Temporomandibular Disorders: Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) are a group of conditions that can affect the TMJ. These disorders can cause pain in the TMJ, as well as the muscles around it. TMD has been linked to various types of headaches, such as migraines.
  • Braces Movement: If you have braces, you may notice that your headaches increase when your braces are adjusted or moved. This is because the movement of your braces can put pressure on your jaw, which can then refer pain to your head.
  • Tooth Infections: If you let a cavity continue to grow without seeing a dentist, it can reach your pulp and cause an infection. Tooth infections can cause pain in the affected tooth, as well as refer pain to other areas of your head. If you have an infected tooth, it’s important to see a dentist as soon as possible, as the infection can spread and cause further complications.

How to Get Rid of Your Headaches

If you think that your cavities are causing your headaches, the best thing to do is to see a dentist. They will be able to take x-rays of your teeth and see if there is any decay present. If they find a cavity, they will then be able to treat it accordingly.

In the meantime, there are some things you can do to help ease your headaches. These tips are also aimed at reducing the other common causes of headaches.

  • Take over-the-counter pain medication: Ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help to reduce the pain from cavities and other sources of headaches.
  • Eat Well: Eating a balanced diet can help to reduce the pain from headaches.
  • Drink Lots of Water: Staying hydrated is important for maintaining good oral health. It can also help to reduce the pain from headaches.
  • Get Lots of Sleep: Getting enough sleep can help to reduce stress and tension, which can contribute to headaches.
  • Apply a warm compress: Applying a warm compress to your forehead can help to ease tension headaches.
  • Avoid triggers: If you know what triggers your headaches, try to avoid them. For example, if you get migraines after eating certain foods, avoid those foods. If you grind your teeth at night, try to wear a mouth guard.


The contents of this website, such as text, graphics, images, and other material are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be substituted for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Nothing on this website constitutes the practice of medicine, law or any other regulated profession.

No two mouths are the same, and each oral situation is unique. As such, it isn’t possible to give comprehensive advice or diagnose oral conditions based on articles alone. The best way to ensure you’re getting the best dental care possible is to visit a dentist in person for an examination and consultation.


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