Can wisdom teeth cause migraine? (2023)

Home » Can wisdom teeth cause migraine? (2023)

If you suffer from migraines, you know how debilitating they can be. Several triggers for migraine are known – from stress and bright light, to certain foods.

Could your dental condition be to blame? Let’s take a look at the connection between wisdom teeth and migraine headaches.

Can wisdom teeth cause migraines?

Inflammation from dental problems could cause migraines due to a pain nerve (nociceptive) issue. This means that your wisdom tooth pain could bring about other types of pain disorders like headaches, and jaw pain.

Key takeaways

Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that young adults get in their late teens or early twenties. They’re called wisdom teeth because they usually come in around the time when you’re considered ‘wise’ enough to handle them!

Since they’re the last teeth to come in, there isn’t always enough room. This can cause problems in the back of the mouth such as:

  • crowding on the second set of molars
  • impaction
  • jaw pain
  • severe headaches

How wisdom teeth cause pain

The pain from wisdom teeth can obviously cause headache, as many of us know. But there are a few theories about how wisdom teeth can cause migraines too.

It all relates back to the Trigeminal nerve (the one involved in Trigeminal neuralgia, another painful head/face condition).

trigeminal nerve
Trigeminal nerve branches – Source: Physiopedia, Author: btarski, 2006

This recent review reported that Disorders of oral and craniofacial structures may influence primary headache disorders”, suggesting that dental issues causing inflammation in the oral cavity (mouth) could be a cause of Migraine.

The link, they suggest, is a problem with pain nerves and blood vessels in the 2nd and 3rd branches of the Trigeminal nerve.

The Trigeminal nerve is a 5-branch cranial nerve that supplies parts of your mouth, head, and face, including the teeth and sinuses.

Wisdom tooth impaction

Wisdom tooth impaction is when your wisdom teeth come in but are unable to break through the gum line. This can happen because there isn’t enough room, or because the teeth are positioned at an angle. [2]

wisdom tooth impaction

The constant pressure of impacted teeth can cause a lot of pain, and lead to infection – potentially even a dental abscess. It’s here that the link to migraine could happen, some think.

What’s more, the pain from the growth of wisdom teeth can cause an incorrect bite, leading to bad jaw position, and causing tight muscles and jaw joint pain – features of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).

The pain of wisdom tooth infection

The growth of the wisdom teeth creates changes that breach the gum line, and bacterial infection can occur. This can form a “gum pouch” or periodontal pocket, causing a painful sensation.

gum pouch wisdom tooth

Symptoms of impacted wisdom tooth with infection include:

  • Toothache
  • Bad breath
  • Neck pain
  • Headache
  • Sinus infection
  • Swelling around the jaw

Is my headache from impacted wisdom teeth?

You likely have headaches from wisdom teeth issues if:

  • you have symptoms like jaw pain or toothache
  • your headaches occur after mealtimes
  • you suspect wisdom teeth coming through, e.g in a person 17-24 years old

Can I prevent dental migraine?

How can we pre-empt dental problems like infection, pain, and headaches? The root cause of these problems is often a lack of space in the mouth for the wisdom teeth to erupt.

An x-ray can help to determine if there is enough space in the mouth. Your dentist may recommend that the wisdom teeth be removed.

wisdom tooth extraction

Addressing wisdom teeth problems

Many people experience problems with their wisdom teeth, especially in early adulthood. If wisdom tooth pain is left untreated, it can cause serious oral health problems.

Oral surgeons are your port of call to address wisdom teeth issues. The obvious route is surgical extraction, which involves removing the wisdom teeth.

This procedure is typically performed under local anesthesia, and patients usually experience some postoperative discomfort and headaches.

However, oral surgeons are skilled in minimizing these side effects, and most people recover quickly from wisdom tooth surgery.

Proper daily oral hygiene is also important for preventing wisdom tooth problems, as gum disease can more readily lead to wisdom tooth problems.

Home remedies for wisdom tooth migraine

If you suspect you have migraine headaches related to dental problems, oral health is a priority. Recommendations from your dentist may include:

  • warm water + sodium chloride (salt) mouth rinses
  • proper daily oral hygiene – brushing and flossing
  • consider antiseptic mouthwash, if your dentist agrees
  • cold therapy: ice pack applied to the outside of the jaw
  • night guard or mouth guard if suffering bruxism (teeth grinding)

The chemistry of migraine

So, could wisdom tooth issues be a silent cause of migraines, for some? There is still some debate about whether or not wisdom teeth can actually cause migraines.

migraine peptide

But, there is recent research into a substance called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), which has been shown to be a factor in getting a migraine. [1][4]

CGRP is implicated in the connection between TMJ disorder and migraine, too.

Let’s see what the research reveals about migraines in the coming years!

Comment below on your experiences with dental problems and migraine.

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Teruel, Antonia, and Marcela Romero-Reyes. “Interplay of Oral, Mandibular, and Facial Disorders and Migraine.” Current Pain and Headache Reports (2022): 1-7.

Mayo Clinic:

Akerman, Simon, and Marcela Romero‐Reyes. “Preclinical studies investigating the neural mechanisms involved in the co‐morbidity of migraine and temporomandibular disorders: the role of CGRP.” British Journal of Pharmacology 177.24 (2020): 5555-5568.

Wikipedia – Calcitonin gene-related peptide:

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