How Does a Toothache Give You Headaches?

Temporomandibular Disorder

TMD stands for temporoamandibular disorder 1. This is a type of condition that causes toothaches and pain in the teeth. The temporoamandibular joints are located in the area where the skull connects to the lower jaw. The muscles that are located on the sides of the face control the movement that the joint makes. When these muscles are constricted or not working properly, they can cause shooting pain. The shooting pain often found in the mouth and jaw can trigger headaches in some people. One potential reason for this is because of higher levels of estrogen in the body. High amounts of estrogen can occur naturally or they can be a result of taking birth control pills or other estrogen medication. TMD can also be caused from abnormalities and conditions that occur in the tooth region, such as grinding teeth, eating hard foods, chewing excessive amounts of gum and sometimes the effacing of wisdom teeth. Learning how to relieve symptoms by taking over-the-counter pain medications, alternating both hot and cold compresses and wearing a mouth guard at night may help with headaches and other pain issues.

Abscessed Tooth

An abscessed tooth is a leading cause of headache. An abscessed tooth is caused from a severe cavity or crack in the tooth that has lead to infection of the tooth and its surrounding tissue 3. The trigeminal nerve is the main nerve center of the head and face. It branches out into several divisions that each serve their own pathway and function in the human head. There are several main nerves, such as the lingual, in the mouth. The lingual is a prominent pain nerve. It identifies throbbing discomfort from nerves being agitated in and around an abscessed or fractured tooth. The lingual also helps relay taste and sensation to the mouth. If the nerve or surrounding nerves are agitated by the piercing, pressure or inflammation of a tooth within its sac and socket, it can stimulate the nerve endings and send signals to the head; resulting in a stabbing, throbbing or shooting pain from the jaw area to the top or sides of the head. The only way to truly alleviate the pain is to seek the assistance of a dental professional for a complete physical oral evaluation and possible extraction.


Cavities form in the roots and surface areas of a tooth. They are generally caused from a lack of proper oral health care, such as cleaning and brushing. They can also be caused from excessive consumption of sugary drinks and snacks. Cavities are a leading cause of headache pain. Once the tooth erupts, a hole can occur and the cavity begins to eat away at the enamel on the tooth 3. This can cause nerves to be exposed to food, hot and cold temperatures and liquids and also sweet foods. When the nerves respond to the stimuli they often send pain signals to other areas of the face. These areas can experience intense nerve pain, even though they are isolated to one location. They can be very painful. They may come in waves as the nerve responds to what the person is eating and drinking. Over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen, may help but having the cavities filled by the dentist will prevent the cavities from spreading or causing further pain and tooth damage.