Headaches are often associated with allergies, dehydration, or illness, but oftentimes, headaches can also be the result of joint and muscle stress in the mouth. Considered a neuromuscular problem, the joints and muscles that hold the teeth in place may be forced into a position of resistance whenever the patient bites down, or even closes his or her mouth.

“Basically, the joints and muscles may be happier in an origin that is millimeters to, say the right, of where the bite is, but your bite is stretching them to slightly to the left day after day after day,” said Rashmi Bhatnagar, DMD and MPH at BelleVista DentalCare Group in Phoenix. “People can get severe migraines from this phenomenon.”

According to Bhatnagar, who checks for proper tooth and muscle/joint alignment during her appointments, the common age category this affects is those in their 30s and 40s. Even beyond headaches, a misalignment between the tooth position and muscle position can create pain in the neck, in front of the ear, in the back, and in the temporal region.

To reverse the effects, Bhatnagar introduces the patient to a guard-like splint that allows the teeth to move without forcing the muscles into a locking position when the mouth is closed.

“With this, the muscles are able to go wherever they are the most comfortable,” said Bhatnagar.

In one case, a patient had been unable to move her neck for a year due to a misalignment of the teeth and muscles.

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