Migraine headaches, could it be your teeth?

Migraine Headaches—could it be Your Teeth?

New treatment may be more effective than drugs

In studies on a technique for treating migraines performed at the Westchester Medical Center and at the New York Medical College, 80% of the patients with severe migraine or tension headaches experienced relief within 40 minutes, without the use of drugs. Researchers found that the headache patients had a tender and inflamed area above the upper molars, treating this area relieves the headaches. The inflamed area irritates nerves nearby and creates the headache. A device called the Intra-Oral Vasoconstriction device (IVC) was used to chill the inflamed area to reduce the swelling, which takes the pressure off the nerve to eliminate the headache.

Researchers found this connection between the inflammation around the teeth and headaches by feeling for tenderness and measuring the temperature in the area above the upper molars. In patients with one-sided headaches the temperature was higher on the side of involvement. There was also increased tenderness above the teeth on the involved side. Dr. Mark Friedman, a dentist and Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine and of Anatomy and Cell Biology at New York Medical College, was the principal investigator for these studies.

A topical anti-inflammatory gel has been developed for application to the area above the teeth for headache prevention and its effectiveness has been studied. The treatment shows promise, and has been more effective than many drugs designed to prevent headaches. The study measured a value called Headache Burden, which equals total monthly headache hours multiplied by average headache intensity (0-10 scale). Daily gel application resulted in an 81% reduction in Headache Burden as well as a significant reduction in the use of analgesics.

February 2002

From Westchester Head and Neck Pain Center

Key words: migraine, headaches

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