Can You Find Migraine Relief at the Dentist's Office?

Could eliminating your migraines be as easy as visiting your dentist? One dentist/physical therapist team in Scotland says, "yes," according to recent research and their unique drug-free approach.  Recent research indicates that 75 percent of migraine sufferers experience significant pain relief without medication when stress is relieved in their face, jaw and neck.  Cosmetic dentist, Dr. Biju Krishnan has teamed up with physiotherapist (AKA physical therapist) Kristen Lord in Scotland and designed a medication-free treatment program they claim reduces migraine severity by 75 percent and works on 75 percent of their migraine patients.

Their treatment plan focuses on taking stress off of the "headache nerve" (the trigeminal nerve that supplies information to and from the jaw, teeth, face, scalp and head).  Physical therapy treatments release that nerve from the temporo-mandibular joint (the jaw joint) in front of the ear.  Then, a customized dental splint is made to prevent tooth grinding and jaw clenching during sleep.  The result is serious pain relief and migraine prevention.

American dentists agree that many headaches and migraines are caused by temporo-mandibular joint misalignment and trigeminal nerve irritation brought on by stress, anxiety, tooth grinding, jaw clenching, poor posture and other conditions. Since headaches and toothaches all transmit through the same nerve, pain in one nerve branch (say, the dental branch) could trigger tension in other areas (say, the scalp, temples or jaw).  Since the head, face and jaw anatomy are so closely linked, it makes sense that reflexive behaviors caused by pain or tension, like muscle tension or jaw clenching, could transfer pain to other head structures.

How can you find out if dental issues are causing your migraines?  Start with a visit to your dentist. Describe how often and where you feel migraine pain and any other symptoms or patterns you associate with them.  Your dentist may order x-rays to look closely at how your jawbones align and evaluate the condition of your teeth.  She'll determine whether you grind your teeth and if any other dental conditions may be causing irritation to the trigeminal nerve.  She may prescribe nighttime tooth guards to prevent jaw clenching and tooth grinding. 

Dental therapy for migraines is relatively new territory for many dentists and doctors to explore, so you may have to take the reins and help them guide you to the right treatments and therapists. 

  • Ask your dentist for a referral to a craniofacial specialist, neurologist or physical therapist experienced with headache treatment.
  • Investigate other methods of stress reduction, specifically related to the head and neck, including cranio-sacral massage therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic therapy.
  • Improve your posture, especially in your work environment. Ergonomically designed workstations can significantly reduce headache, back and neck pain.

"Out of the box" solutions like appropriate dental care may provide a cure, rather than a treatment for many migraine sufferers. 


Dentist offers treatment for migraines

6th Sep 2010

Medical News Today

Nagging Headache Often Linked To Dental Pain

03 Jun 2008

National Headache Foundation