Could Oral Bacteria be a Cause of Migraines?

February 26th, 2021

Migraines can be a nuisance! If you've ever suffered a migraine, you know how significant an attack can feel. Could your dentist help relieve your migraines? In some cases, yes! A study published by the American Society for Microbiology suggests that certain oral bacteria known to increase nitric oxide in the bloodstream can cause the blood vessels in the brain to widen, which consequently can trigger the onset of a migraine.

As you may know, there are many factors that could be the cause of your headaches or migraine, and treatment requires a correct diagnosis. Migraines are commonly known to be triggered by foods high in nitrates and nitrites, which are often found in processed meats like hot dogs, ham and bacon, alcohol, and even chocolate.

In addition, migraines may be triggered by other certain factors, including:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Female hormonal changes
  • Bright or flashing lights
  • Loud noises
  • Strong smells
  • Medications
  • Excess or lack of sleep
  • Sudden changes in weather or environment
  • Increased physical activity
  • Tobacco
  • Caffeine or caffeine withdrawal
  • Skipped meals
  • Medication overuse

What exactly does a migraine entail?

A migraine often presents with severe throbbing or pulsating pain that typically occurs on one side of the head. According to MedlinePlus, approximately 12% of Americans experience migraines. Females, individuals with a family history of migraines, and individuals with certain medical conditions including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, sleep disorders, and epilepsy, are at an increased risk of having migraines.

Migraines often involve 4 different stages:

  • Stage 1: Prodrome

This stage is the first stage that occurs before you actually experience the migraine. Early signs may be food cravings, unexplained mood swings, fluid retention, frequent urination, and uncontrollable yawning.

  • Stage 2: Aura

During the aura phase which occurs often right before the start of a migraine, individuals may see bright lights or zig-zag lines. Individuals may also experience muscle weakness.

  • Stage 3: Headache

The severity of migraines often occurs gradually. Some individuals may experience a migraine without a headache, but instead experience sensitivity to light, sound, and smell, nausea and vomiting, and pain when moving.

  • Stage 4: Postdrome

The final stage of a migraine is the postdrome stage, in which individuals often experience fatigue, weakness, and potential confusion lasting sometimes around 1 day after the migraine.

Our body's are full of bacteria that naturally and harmlessly live within us. However, some bacteria can be harmful and lead to cavities, gum disease, and even migraines. This is one of the many reasons why regular dental visits and proper oral care at home is essential. It is important to brush at least twice a day for two minutes each time to help remove dental plaque and prevent it from causing tooth decay. Flossing is also necessary to remove dental plaque that is stuck in hard-to-reach places like in-between teeth, which is where cavities commonly are initiated. Rinsing with an anti-microbial and fluoride containing mouth rinse can also help kill bacteria and strengthen your teeth.

Your dentist can check to see if your headaches or migraines are caused by other oral conditions such as temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) or oral habits such as clenching/bruxism. Toothaches from dental infection by oral bacteria can also cause significant pain in the head and jaw area.

Speak with your doctor and dentist if you feel that you are experiencing chronic migraines.

This pandemic has impacted us all, but our community is indeed all stronger together. Our team at WDG always has your safety and health as our top priority, and we have implemented additional safety measures and equipment to help prevent the transmission of all infections, including COVID-19. Wellesley Dental Group has completely reopened since June 8th, 2020 for all dental procedures and cleanings! Thank you for entrusting your health and dental care to us at Wellesley Dental Group.

Feel free to contact Drs. Ali & Ali and the caring team at Wellesley Dental Group if you have any thoughts or concerns; they will be happy to answer your questions! Contact us today at 781-237-9071 or to set up an appointment.

Your little ones and teens are welcome to visit our pediatric dentist, Dr. Derek, and Dr. Emad is happy to help with your TMJ and orthodontic needs. For wisdom teeth extractions or any other oral surgery needs, Dr. Stephens would love to help, and our gum-specialist Dr. Singh can help with your gum-related concerns.


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