When Kids Say Their Head Hurts

When Kids Say Their Head Hurts

Most children don’t often complain of headaches the way adults do.  So if your child says his head hurts, it’s time to get it checked out.  

Very often people don’t realize that headaches in children can be caused by dental problems.  After taking your child to a pediatrician, the next place to visit would be a Germantown pediatric dentist.

How Teeth Cause Problems

People might be wondering why headaches can be caused by tooth pain.  Many times children aren’t really very good at deciding what hurts.  They may be complaining about their head when it is really a tooth that is causing the pain.

Children also are not good at explaining the hurt.  They may not have the words to explain where the pain is worst.  To them, it may feel like their whole head hurts when it is just a tooth erupting through the gums.  

Other Issues Besides Teeth

When trying to decide what is causing a childhood headache, it makes sense to rule out other issues before focusing on the mouth.  A child may complain of a headache when they just need sleep.  Maybe they skipped lunch at the babysitter’s house, or they have been running and sweating a lot and they are just dehydrated.  

Other times ear infections are to blame for headaches.  Many children also have food allergies that give them headaches.  Sinus headaches are a common problem. 

Sometimes a childhood headache indicates a simple problem like the fact that they need glasses.  Sometimes a headache signals something much more serious like a head injury, brain tumor, meningitis, or encephalitis.  

Although it doesn’t happen often, some children suffer from migraines.  These children may have their first attack before age 6, so it is definitely something to consider before jumping to teeth problems.  

Why Headaches can be Caused by Tooth Pain 

As though childhood, kids are in the process of growing teeth, losing teeth, and then growing more teeth.  Sometimes when the molars come in they cause a child to have a headache, mostly because the molars are bigger teeth. So all that teething can contribute to childhood headaches.  

The usual teeth problems that give adults headaches are the same for children. They may have an infected tooth or a cavity that needs to be filled.  They might have a broken tooth from chomping down on a hard toy.  

When a child constantly complains of a headache and no other cause can be found, it’s time to take them to a Germantown pediatric dentist.  A pediatric dentist is experienced at dealing with little people who can’t exactly verbalize what is bothering them.

Teeth Grinding

A pediatric dentist can look at a child’s teeth and see if they are flattened out by unconscious grinding.  This unconscious grinding can definitely cause headaches, particularly when the child first wakes up in the morning.  The dentist can help by designing a device for the child to wear at night that will stop the grinding.  

Misaligned Teeth

When teeth are coming in during childhood, many things can go wrong.  Sometimes the teeth are too short.  Sometimes a tooth will not come in at all, while other times there are too many teeth.  When teeth are not properly aligned across from each other chewing is hard work.

Teeth can come in too far apart from each other.  At other times, the upper jaw juts out over the lower jaw and the child has a hard time making the front teeth meet when they chew.

The muscle stress from trying to make the teeth meet in order to chew will certainly cause a headache.  The jaw joints are connected to muscles in the cheeks, neck, and temples.  So it makes sense that muscle fatigue from misaligned teeth will cause headaches.  

What Causes Misalignment?

Dentists believe that most misalignment is hereditary.  The facial bone structure that makes people resemble their parents also results in a jaw that resembles the parents.  

Other times children develop habits that can change jaw shape and make the teeth not line up properly.  

Some children develop a habit of letting the lower jaw go slack when they are at rest.  This will cause the jaws to develop incorrectly.  Allergies and asthma may cause a child to start mouth breathing because he is having trouble breathing through his nose.

Mouth breathing is well known for causing jaw misalignment and therefore causing headaches.    When a child is mouth breathing all the time, a narrow upper jaw will develop.  This in turn forces the teeth out of alignment and makes the jaw joints painful.  

How to Avoid Childhood Dental Headaches 

Basically, take the child to the dentist when the headaches start and other causes are not found. 

If there are too many teeth to fit into the child’s jaw, the dentist can pull the extra teeth.  Then the dentist can correct the teeth that are misaligned.  This can hopefully avoid the need for lots of expensive orthodontic work later on. 

If mouth breathing is the problem, a Germantown pediatric dentist can make devices that will expand the upper jaw while it is still growing.  Enlarging the upper and lower jaw will reduce the tension on the joints of the jaw so that the child does not have headaches from jaw joint pain.  

Having more space in the oral cavity leaves more room for the tongue which in turn makes it easier for the child to breathe and therefore reduces headaches. 

Home Remedies

If children are experiencing headaches from teeth coming in, there are things that can be done at home to make the child feel better and perhaps reduce headaches.

Using a damp toothbrush, kids can gently massage their gums. They can also swish around warm saltwater in their mouth to cut down on soreness.  

While applying ice packs might be painful, eating cold soft foods would be helpful.  A soft teething ring that can be put into the refrigerator between uses can be soothing to chew on.  

The adult teeth start coming in around age 6 and will continue for the next 7 years until the child is around 13.  So for these years, parents should be mindful of when a tooth is trying to erupt. Easing teething pain will ease headaches.

Parents can avoid giving kids hard crunchy foods that will irritate the gum around the emerging tooth.  They can give kids mashed potatoes, or smoothies, or chilled applesauce.  Tofu is a great meat substitute and soft on the teeth.  

If the child’s headaches are being caused by gingivitis, the warm salt water rinse is good for this too.  Diluted hydrogen peroxide can be swished around in the mouth to kill bacteria and ease the gums.  Just be sure your child is old enough to not swallow it by mistake. 

Some parents have reported that vanilla extract will relieve tooth pain.  Just put a little on a fingertip and apply directly to the emerging tooth.  Parents can do this several times a day.  

As previously mentioned, an ice pack might be too cold.  But a cloth drenched in cold water might feel very good.  The coldness draws blood away from the painful area and reduces the inflammation.  

The last home remedy for sore teeth that are causing headaches is the old peppermint tea bag remedy.  Peppermint tea is known for calming upset stomachs.  Parents should wet the tea bag with cool water and apply it directly to the irritated area of the mouth.  

John Norwood
John Norwood is best known as a technology journalist, currently at Ziddu where he focuses on tech startups, companies, and products.