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Can a tooth infection cause headaches?

Can a tooth infection cause headaches?

Table of content

1. Signs, symptoms, and the possible impact of tooth infection:

Before examining, Can a tooth infection cause headaches, or is the interrelation between tooth infection and headache? It is essential to focus on the signs, symptoms, and possible impacts of tooth infection on different parts of the body and then separately focus on possible causes of headaches. Various signs and symptoms of tooth infection (attended with a toothache which may range from a mild ache to excruciating pain that often interferes with daily home and job responsibilities causing additional sleeplessness) may get exposed in different stages of life that include:

  • Severe, persistent, and throbbing tooth pain is one of the major signs of tooth infection that can travel to the jaw bone, neck as well as ear.
  • The patient may experience sensitivity to temperature (hot and cold), pressure, chewing, biting, grinding, eating sweet and sour foods, or even touching.
  • The gum's swelling and inflammation usually occur surrounding the teeth when people do not properly practice dental hygiene. Gums become detached from the teeth forming pockets filled with bacteria. This results in swollen and bleeding gums.
  • Tender and swollen lymph nodes usually occur as a result of viruses. Common areas where lymph nodes are noticed include the neck, armpits, groin, and places under the chin. An infected lymph node is commonly found, which is very painful.
  • An infected tooth, if left untreated, may create a hollow tunnel called a fistula that stems from the abscess. A dental abscess is caused by a build-up of bacteria inside the pulp chamber that becomes infected. This infection then tries to drain itself out of the very tip of the root. The pressure from the drain infection causes pain that can become severe with swelling if left untreated. Most abscesses can be seen visually on dental X-rays) throughout the bone or skin, allowing the pus to drain.
  • Fever: Tooth infection is one of the potential causes of persistent fever. Whenever there is an infection, there is the pressure of the inflammation. And the inflammation is accompanied by pain, redness, swelling, loss of function, and heat (i.e., rise in body temperature implying fever)

Other symptoms of tooth infection are bad breath and foul taste.

2. Can a tooth infection cause headaches? Experts Opinions

The answer is yes! A tooth infection, or periapical abscess, can cause headaches. This is because the infection spreads to the surrounding tissues, which can cause the nerves to become irritated. Experts believe that a tooth infection having a painful jaw can be a source of irritability and nagging headaches.

Sinus infection:

The location of the 1st maxillary molar is usually one of the major causes of sinus infection resulting from a tooth infection. One of the most immediate consequences is a sinus headache. The built-up pressure in the sinuses causes pain that feels like a headache. Often allergies can cause sinus congestion, thus leading to headaches usually caused by sinus infection known as sinusitis.

Headache and toothache:

All transmit pain through the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve is the largest sensory nerve in the head that conveys sensation to the external face, scalp, jaw, teeth, and much of the intraoral structures. Pain in one branch of the nerve has the potential to activate other branches of the nerve. And when the pain is chronic and sustained, it is more likely to trigger a sequence of nagging feelings that might lead to headaches. A continuously sustained toothache can easily trigger episodic headaches, such as migraines.

Physical pain:

On account of the close anatomical links among the head pain, face pain, and jaw pain, the reflexive behavior patterns caused by tension (such as jaw clenching and muscle tightening) exacerbate and transfer pain to different parts of the body.

Muscles contracted:

There exists a good deal of interconnectivity between the oro-facial and crania-cervical systems. For instance, when one clenches the teeth, the neck muscles get contracted inadvertently. Studies reveal that when a patient has an acute neck injury, he often starts holding tensions in their teeth, and consequently, jaw muscle pain will occur. A tooth infection in terms of a chronic toothache may also cause bracing in the muscles on the same side of the jaw or the neck.


When head and face pain spring from the tooth or jaw injury, or when the patient unknowingly clenches or grinds the teeth for a long time and consequently, the tissue inside or below the tooth is damaged, it can be difficult for the physician to decipher the cause of the pain.

Medical history:

As the general headaches do not have any specific diagnosis, in the case of most of the patients, the medical history is recorded, which is subsequently referred to the dentist for proper medication.

3. What is a headache, and what are the possible causes?

3.1) What is a headache?

Headaches are one of the most common medical complaints. Most people experience headaches at some stage of their life. Headaches can affect anyone regardless of age, race, and gender. The WHO reports that almost half of the adults worldwide will experience headaches at any stage of life.

A headache can be a sign of stress or emotional distress resulting from a medical disorder, such as high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, or migraine. Although migraine and simple headaches cause pain, they differ in that migraine cause symptom like nausea or vomiting and sensitivity to light, sound, or smell. Migraine can cause severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on just one side of the head.

3.2) Possible causes of headache

Headache can occur in any part of the head, in just one location, or on both sides. The IHS categorizes headaches as primary (when caused by structural conditions prevailing in the head) and secondary (when underlying causes lie in other parts of the body).

3.2.1) Primary headache

Overwork or problem with structures in the head is to cause primary headaches. That are pain-sensitive. These include blood vessels, muscles, and nerves of the head and neck. They may result from changes in the chemical activity in the brain. Common primary headaches include migraine, cluster headaches, and tension headaches.

3.2.2) Secondary headache

Secondary headaches are symptoms that happen when another condition stimulates the pain-sensitive nerves of the head. A wide range of different factors can cause secondary headaches. These include

  • Alcohol-induced hangover
  • brain tumor
  • blood clots
  • bleeding in or around the brain
  • brain freeze or ice cream headaches
  • carbon monoxide poisoning
  • concussion
  • dehydration glaucoma
  • teeth grinding at night
  • influenza
  • overconsumption of pain medication
  • panic attacks and stroke

4. Conclusive remark

Prevention is an important part of sound dental health. No one needs to suffer a headache resulting from excruciating tooth pain because of having infected teeth and other related problems, such as fever, swollen gum, unpalatable taste, and bad taste breath. As the first preventive step, brushing at least twice a day (with fluoride toothpaste) is essential. Regular brushing, flossing, and rinsing can make one get rid of bacteria. That can infiltrate enamel and result in tooth infection.

More importantly, one needs to visit a dentist at least twice a year, even though apparently, there is no dental problem. The dentist can use an X-ray to locate any potential cavities and weak spots and address minor issues before they grow strong enough to cause toothache and headache.

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