Approximately 38 million people in the United States suffer from migraines. But despite how common they are, they continue to baffle doctors when it comes to their cause. Identifying the cause of migraines is a frustrating gap in medical knowledge, and that makes migraines extremely difficult to treat.
Some evidence leads doctors to believe that the source of migraines is rooted somewhere in the muscles and blood vessels of the head and neck. But ultimately, the best most doctors can do for migraine treatment is to encourage their patients to look for possible triggers, so patients can avoid them.
Could Migraines be Caused by Oral Bacteria?
A new study from the University of San Diego suggests a possible new culprit for migraines: Oral bacteria. Here’s how it works: There are specific bacteria in the mouth, throat, and gut that convert nitrates in the blood into nitric oxide. That nitric oxide, in turn, can trigger headaches.
The study tested bacteria from 171 patients who suffer from migraines, and nearly 2,000 patients who do not. When researchers analyzed the bacteria present in migraine sufferers and compared it to their migraine-free control subjects, they found an unmistakable correlation. People who struggle with migraines had more of those specific bacteria in their mouths and guts.
This information could be extremely valuable to migraine research. However, this correlation doesn’t tell researchers whether the elevated levels of these bacteria are a cause of migraines, or just related to them. The relationship between the bacteria and the migraines has yet to be nailed down.
What Causes Migraines?
Although this research is a helpful step in migraine research, the medical community remains largely in the dark about the causes. Besides the research connecting oral bacteria and migraines, there are countless other potential connections that have yet to be fully explored. Some studies show that BPAs can induce migraines, while other research connects migraines and back pain. Maybe it’s even the amount of salt in your diet!
Chronic migraines are also a common symptom of TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder. Luckily, TMJ-induced migraines are treatable by treating the underlying cause: a misaligned or “bad” bite. If your headaches are accompanied by any other symptoms of TMJ, such as jaw pain, facial tenderness, tinnitus, or jaw clicking, it’s time to see an experienced TMJ dentist.
Don’t let migraines disrupt your life! Dr. Kenneth Siegel is an experienced dentist trained in Advanced Neuromuscular Dentistry. If you think you might have TMJ, call us today at