Posted on 04/04/2013 · Posted in Health Information from Affiliated Dentists, Information

Whether they are caused by stress, bright lights or ice cream, headaches are painful and can rob you of quality of life.  Unfortunately, there are many triggers that can cause headaches.  Let’s look at some of the more common triggers to learn just what can cause headaches.

Common Triggers that Cause Headaches

Drinking Alcohol Can Cause Headaches

Drinking alcohol can cause headaches in some people.  Most of the time it’s due to sulfites, which are used as a preservative in some types of alcohol such as red wine (not white).  The most common alcoholic headache culprits are red wine, champagne, whiskey, scotch and beer.

Alcohol also dehydrates your body, and that might be blamed for all kinds of things — including the throbbing headache you might get after tossing back a few too many the night before.  Also, hormonal changes caused by alcohol and the toxic effects alcohol has on your body cause headaches that are associated with a hangover.  Alcohol causes more blood flow to the anterior cerebral artery in your brain, too.

Grinding Your Teeth Will Cause Headaches

Most people probably grind and clench their teeth from time to time, medically called bruxism. Occasional teeth grinding, medically called bruxism, does not usually cause harm, but when teeth grinding occurs on a regular basis the teeth can be damaged and other oral health complications can arise.  Unfortunately, it can be difficult to determine if you have bruxism, as most people grind their teeth at night while they sleep.  The most common symptoms are a constant, dull headache during the day and jaw pain.

It is very important to schedule an appointment with us if you have these symptoms every day.  Not only can chronic teeth grinding cause headaches, but it can also result in a fracturing, loosening, or loss of teeth. The chronic grinding may wear their teeth down to stumps. When these events happen, bridges, crowns, root canals, implants, partial dentures, and even complete dentures may be needed.

If you suspect you may be grinding your teeth, talk to your dentist. He or she can examine your mouth and jaw for signs of bruxism, such as jaw tenderness and abnormalities in your teeth.

“Brain Freeze” is a Common Type of Headache

Who hasn’t had the feeling? You’re going to town on some ice cream or a cold drink when suddenly, the middle of your head feels like it is splitting open.

An ice cream headache — or a “brain freeze” — is definitely real.  It is experienced when something extremely cold such as ice cream is introduced to the very warm top palate in your mouth, which causes more blood to flow to your brain. This increase in blood volume and resulting increase in size in this artery is thought to bring on the pain associated with an ice-cream headache. Drink something warm or hold your tongue to the roof of your mouth to warm it up and feel better.

Read more about increased blood flow to the brain and ice cream triggered headaches by clicking here.

Sinus Infections Cause Headaches

With a sinus headache you usually get head pain along with nasal discharge, congestion, postnasal drip, and a sore throat. If you get a fever, too, that may mean you have a sinus infection.  You can often treat a sinus headache with over-the-counter pain relievers like Advil or Tylenol.  A warm shower might help with congestion, too.  However, see your doctor if your fever doesn’t improve after a few days.  Read more about sinus infections by clicking here.

Weekends Can Cause Headaches

Yes, you read that right!  Weekends should be headache-free, but they actually can cause headaches too!  Some people who get migraines also get “weekend headaches.”  Changes in your routine can bring the pain. Maybe you get more sleep, drink less caffeine (causing a caffeine withdrawal headache), or are more active on the weekend. Any of those changes can trigger a headache.


Different Types of Headaches

  • Tension headaches – a dull pressure on both sides of your head and sometimes even in the neck, most commonly described as a “band being tightened around my head.”  About nine out of every 10 headaches diagnosed are tension headaches. They’re usually caused by tight muscles at the back of your neck or head.  Stress is the most common trigger.
  • Cluster headaches – a sharp, severe pain usually located behind one eye, along with a runny nose, tearing of the eye and redness.  About twice as many men get cluster headaches as women. Cluster headaches are the least common headache, but can be very severe.
  • Migraine headaches – moderate to severe throbbing along with nausea, vomiting, light and sound sensitivity that lasts up to 72 hours.

Headache Relief

So we’ve learned what can cause headaches, but how are they cured?  Many people think they need an x-ray or brain scan to determine what type of headache they have, but it’s actually not true.  Your doctor will usually diagnose your headaches based on how you describe them. He or she will ask you to describe the pain, how you act when you have a headache, and what you do to relieve your symptoms.

Medication and Headache Treatments

You can use over the counter pain medications as directed to get some relief from the headache pain.  If that doesn’t help, see your doctor, who, after an exam, might feel you are in need of a prescription medication.  Here is a list of the most common medications – over the counter and prescription – that doctors prescribe for headache pain.

It’s important to take medicine only as directed — both how much you take and how often you take it. Something you want to prevent when taking headache medication is a rebound headache. These headaches can be triggered when you’ve taken headache medication frequently. It’s actually kind of ironic: taking medication to help a headache can actually cause headaches! It can become a vicious cycle.

Try these other home remedies to relieve some headache pain:

  • Relax tense neck, shoulder, and back muscles.
  • Rest in a dark room.
  • Use a heating pad or an ice pack where it aches. Or try the back of your neck, forehead, or your temple.
  • Gently massage your temples or neck.
  • Take a soothing warm shower.
For a list of prescription drugs that can damage your teeth, read this article