Does Malocclusion Cause Headaches?

TMJ and malocclusion

Do you get frequent headaches? Headaches are a common malady. One in every eight Americans suffer recurring headaches. According to research, 80 percent of those headaches are caused by muscular tension. But did you know that your tension headache may be coming from your teeth and jaw?  Today, we discuss how your teeth can be causing you headaches. Discover the link between malocclusion and headaches.

Dental Headaches

Some headaches are better treated by your dentist than your family doctor. The buildup of muscular tension in the face and jaw can cause tension headaches or “dental headaches” that only your dentist is trained to diagnose. As with any headache, dental headaches can range from mild (a dull ache) to throbbing to excruciatingly painful. Regardless of their intensity at the very least they can be irritating, and at the worst they can affect your quality of life. Dental headaches can be the result of malocclusion, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), or bruxism.


Occlusion is dental terminology for how your teeth come together when you close your mouth, chew, and swallow. Malocclusion means your upper and lower teeth don’t fit together properly when they come together causing a misaligned or bad bite. When the chewing surfaces of your teeth do not meet correctly, it can cause a whole host of problems, headache being one of them. Your teeth should only come together to touch when you chew or swallow. When your jaw is at rest your teeth should not touch. However if you have a bad bite, your teeth may touch whenever your mouth is closed, particularly while sleeping. This can put continuous force on your teeth, jaw bone, and facial muscles creating the tension that results in dental headaches.

There are a number of conditions resulting in malocclusion including but not limited to an overbite, under bite, and cross bite. Most malocclusions are due to heredity. Anytime your teeth are misaligned it puts undue strain on your jaw making the muscles work harder to bring your teeth together each time you need to close your mouth, which happens every time you swallow. Swallowing alone with a malocclusion can create muscle pain and tension when you consider that you swallow over 2000 times a day. Every time you swallow your teeth come together and brace your jaw against your skull. If your muscles are working twice as hard to begin with due to a malocclusion, this alone can cause problems without even factoring in muscle use during chewing and talking all day.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)

Temporomandibular joint disorders include a collection of problems relating to the face and jaw muscles and the Temporomandibular joint. There is a Temporomandibular joint on each side of your jaw located in front of your ear. The TMJ is constructed of bones, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels and attaches your lower jaw to your skull. Problems resulting from the Temporomandibular joint can lead to:

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, an estimated 10 million Americans suffer from TMJ related issues. TMJ can be the result of malocclusion or other conditions. Things such as chronic bruxing, habits such as biting your fingernails or chewing gum, stress, or occupational related tasks such as frequently balancing the phone between your head and shoulder for extended periods of time.


Bruxism is when you grind, clench, or gnash your teeth habitually. When facial and jaw muscles are contracted (as in clenching) for long periods of time it can cause facial pain, neck pain, and headaches. The frequency and intensity of the clenching and grinding can increase the pain and tension. Many people brux unconsciously due to anger, anxiety, stress, certain medications, or malocclusion. Most bruxing is done during sleep. According to statistics, one out of every four people who visit the dentist habitually brux, 15 to 38 percent of children and 5 to 20 percent of adults.

Learn more about the links between your malocclusion and headaches

If you are suffering from chronic bad breath, discuss the many treatment options with your Lake Forest dentist, Dr. Fondriest. Aside from providing dependable general and restorative dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is a former adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. At Lake Forest Dental Arts, Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, knowledgeable staff. To schedule a consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.