Bad breath, or halitosis, is more than just the smell of funk exhaled when you forget to brush your teeth. It’s the result of literally billions upon billions of microscopic bacteria working around the clock to break down organic waste and food debris.
More than 600 documented strains of bacteria found in the average human mouth are beneficial, even critical, for the digestion process and overall equilibrium of a healthy, happy oral community.
However, as with any large extended family, there are a few bad apples. Rothia mucilaginosa and Haemophilus parainfluenzae, in particular, are especially prolific generators of noxious odors. But that’s not all; recent research seems to indicate that these harmful germs may also be responsible for causing skull-crushing migraines.
As it turns out, bad breath can give you a headache.
Do microbes cause migraines?
According to researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, those who regularly suffer from migraines also hosted many times the average number of nitrate-reducing bacterium in their mouths.
Nitrates, which can be found in various foods from processed meats to wine and chocolate, are broken down by these bacteria and converted into nitric oxide. Unfortunately for sommeliers, chocolate connoisseurs, and bacon-lovers everywhere, nitric oxide is a potent vasodilator. It causes blood vessels in the head to expand, and in doing so, can trigger migraines, tension headaches, and cluster headaches.
The more nitrate-rich foods you consume, the more fuel for nitrate-loving microbes, resulting in more nitric oxide in your blood. Scientists suspect that oral bacteria may be the culprit behind bad breath and headaches (and migraines).
Flossing and regular visits to Willow Pass Dental Care for checkups are also highly recommended, but brushing is the foundation for an effective dental hygiene routine.
Brushing your teeth is the cornerstone of a healthy dental hygiene routine. We have been taught, told, and exhorted to brush our teeth from the emergence of our very first tooth.
Recent headlines would suggest that sparkling water might not be such a great alternative to just plain old water. But is bubbly, carbonated water really that bad?
Watch your health by washing your mouth
If microbes such as Rothia mucilaginosa and Haemophilus parainfluenzae are truly to blame for nitrate-induced headaches, it stands to reason that the best way to control the pain in your head is to control the germs in your mouth. Regular and rigorous dental hygiene goes a long way towards curbing unwanted microbes in check.
Diet also appears to play a critical role. Those susceptible to headaches would benefit knowing the nitrate content of the foods they are eating.
5 Food That Boost Nitric Oxide
- Hot Dogs
- Leafy Greens
Tips to Stave Off Headaches
Underlying Health Concerns
There are some health conditions that may cause a combination of a headache, bad breath, or toothache but are not related to a dental or specific headache disorder, such as a migraine or tension headache. Following are some of those health concerns:
A sinus infection occurs when your nasal cavities become infected, swollen, and inflamed. They will often cause discomfort in your teeth, especially your upper teeth since they are located just beneath the maxillary sinus (located behind your cheekbones).
Other signs and symptoms of sinus infection include:
- Nasal congestion
- Bad breath
There are several over-the-counter medications your doctor may recommend such as a nasal decongestant spray, such as oxymetazoline, which can provide sinus infection relief in the short-term. Be sure to consult with your doctor on your use of over-the-counter medicines and recommended use.
Longer use of such over-the-counter medications can cause a rebound effect in nasal congestion. When using nasal spray to treat a sinus infection, keep in mind that prolonged use can be detrimental and make your symptoms much worse.
Sometimes a steroid nasal spray, such as fluticasone, triamcinolone or mometasone, can help with nasal congestion symptoms without the risk of rebound symptoms from prolonged use. Currently, fluticasone and triamcinolone nasal sprays are available over-the-counter.
Other over-the-counter medicines that contain antihistamines and decongestants can help with sinus infections, particularly if you also suffer from allergies. Popular medicines of this kind include:
Decongestants are typically not recommended for people with high blood pressure, prostate issues, glaucoma, or sleep difficulties. Talk to your doctor before taking any of these medicines to make sure that they are the best choice for your specific medical condition.
Postnasal drip can cause your throat considerable pain and aching. Often it starts as just an annoyance and gets worse. Infection can last for several weeks and your voice can become hoarse.
I recommend you make an appointment with your doctor if you have a fever, nasal discharge, congestion, or facial pain that lasts longer than a week or keeps reoccurring.
A fever is not a typical symptom of either chronic or acute sinus infection, but it is possible. You may have an underlying condition that is causing your chronic infections that your doctor can provide you with treatment and relief.
TMJ, or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, is a problem within the jaw joint (located in front of your ear) and the muscles surrounding it. It is a condition that I commonly see that causes toothaches and headaches.
The pain is generally described as an aching pain that begins near the ear and moves towards the jaw, temple, or neck. These headaches are triggered by jaw motions, like chewing or opening and closing your mouth.