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Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Dental Problems Can Trigger Migraines

Dr. Vincent Wan


The precise cause of migraines has been puzzling for the medical profession.  It is believed that there is some connection with how the brain stem and the trigeminal nerve interact.  Neurotransmitters such as serotonin may play a role.  An increase in the number of certain oral bacteria in some people is now thought to make them more prone to getting migraines.

A migraine is in simple terms a very severe headache.  Besides the throbbing pain in the head, it may be associated with seeing flashes of light and being very sensitive to light and sound.  Some people feel very nauseous and want to vomit.  Others get tingling sensations in the arms and legs.  Migraines can last for a long time, even hours and days.

It is known that certain things can trigger a migraine.  Common triggers are stress, physical exertion, hormone changes and even the weather.  Certain foods are also reported triggers for migraines.  Wine, processed meat, green leafy vegetables and chocolate have all been reported.  These foods all contain high levels of nitrate.

The link between oral bacteria and migraines is believed to be due to this nitrate.  The increased numbers of oral bacteria in people who suffer from migraines are all bacteria that can process nitrate.  It is believed the nitrate in food we eat is broken down by these oral bacteria to form nitrite.  Nitrite is then converted to nitric oxide.  The nitric oxide is thought to cause the migraines.  Nitric oxide is used to treat patients with chest pain and heart failure as it helps reduce high blood pressure and improves blood circulation.  Severe headaches, similar to migraines, is a common reported side effect in patients who take this drug.

More research is needed into this association between oral bacteria and migraines.  This is another good reason to properly brush and floss our teeth and visit the dentist every 6 months.  Keeping the bacteria in our mouths under control may prevent us getting migraines.