living with chronic headaches

Living with Chronic Headaches? How your Dentist can Help

living with chronic headachesThousand Oaks, Agoura Hills and Westlake Village, CA

Nothing can spoil your day like a headache, but unfortunately, many people experience these frequent pains. Are you dealing with headaches like these? Do you always have a bottle of aspirin or Ibuprofen on hand, prepared for the worst? You may think your headaches are due to stress. You may even have been diagnosed with migraines, but find that your headache medication only addresses the pain of the headaches as they happen—and does nothing to address how often they occur. Integrative Dental Arts wants to explore two conditions that can cause chronic headaches and how your Agoura Hills dentist, Dr. Kathleen Carson, can help.

TMJ disorder can cause headaches that feel like migraines

Can you find your temporomandibular joint? It’s a small, ball-sized joint located on either side of your head. These structures connect your jaw to your skull and control your ability to open and close your jaws. If dysfunction develops in the temporomandibular joint, it can affect the way your jaws work. That dysfunction can radiate to the surrounding nerves and musculature. One nerve located near the temporomandibular joint is the trigeminal nerve, which carries more sensory input to the brain than any other pathway in your entire nervous system. In many cases of TMJ disorder, the trigeminal nerve becomes irritated, aggravated, or compressed, sending impulses of pain to the outer covering of the brain that leads to headaches. The trigeminal nerve also is involved with other types of tension headaches, including migraines. This is why headaches related to TMJ disorder often can be misidentified as migraines.

Sleep apnea can cause headaches, especially first thing in the morning

Do you find you’re waking up frequently with a headache? If you’re also snoring, waking up with dry mouth, or feeling sleepy throughout the day, no matter how much sleep you got the night before, you could suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. This is a serious sleep breathing disorder that occurs when your airway becomes blocked during sleep—either because of a collapse of soft tissue into the throat, or the tongue sliding back into the airway. Each time one of these blockages happens, your breathing becomes more difficult or may cease altogether. Oxygen levels drop, and your brain sends signals to your body to resume normal breathing. These blockages, also known as apneas, may occur hundreds of times per night for a person living with untreated sleep apnea. The cumulative effect of these events lowers oxygen levels in the blood, widening blood vessels, and leading to vascular headaches.

How can your dentist help?

Your neuromuscular dentist in Agoura Hills at Integrative Dental Arts has training in two specializations of dental science that make them experts in treating both of the above conditions.

Neuromuscular dentistry focuses on the alignment of the bite and jaw. A trained, experienced neuromuscular dentist is the best-qualified medical professional to detect if you suffer from TMJ disorder and then provide treatment. Our regimen of treatment for TMJ disorder may include pain medication, orthotic mouthpieces, orthodontics, mouth restorations, or some combination of the aforementioned methods. 

While only a sleep specialist can make an official diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep apnea dentist can screen for a disorder of this type, and help manage it. In many cases, this treatment consists of oral appliance therapy; we will provide you with a customized oral appliance. When worn, this appliance shifts your lower jaw forward to help maintain an open airway throughout the night and avoid the blockages that cause sleep apnea.

Treating TMJ disorder and sleep apnea in Agoura Hills

At Integrative Dental Arts, we pride ourselves on being a one-stop-shop for all of your dental needs. That’s why we’re proud to offer specialized services such as sleep apnea dentistry and neuromuscular dentistry to our patients in Agoura Hills and Westlake Village, California. You shouldn’t have to live with the pain of frequent headaches. Schedule your consultation today by calling (818) 889-0400.