Headaches And Orthodontics – Is There A Relationship?

The bones that make up your head (cranium) are like a really complex puzzle. The places where the bones join up are called sutures. The way these bones move and interact with each other is really important for a number of reasons including:

  1. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) levels increase and decrease periodically through the day and the cranium needs to be able to allow this to happen.
  2. The cranial nerves need to have space so they can function optimally
  3. The blood vessels need to take blood in and out of the brain.

The cranium does not like compression. Compression impacts how all the structures cope with the fluid flow in and out of the head and therefore the pressure in the head. Compression impacts the cranial nerves. If the cranial sutures, or some of them, get restricted for some reason, or the cranium gets out of alignment it can impact e.g. the drainage of fluid out of the head which can lead to a feeling of fogginess or congestion headaches.

This is really common after concussions. Restrictions created by hits to the head mean the cranial bones can’t expand well when CSF levels are higher, or relax back when they’re lower – because they’re stuck.

When someone gets braces the aim is to straighten their teeth. The braces use tension to pull the teeth into a different position and because the teeth are embedded in the upper and lower jaw they too are subject to the tension created by the braces. Sometimes braces even try and correct overbites so they’re physically trying to rearrange the jaw alignment.

This amount of long term pulling and tension has an enormous impact on the cranium. As we already mentioned the cranium does not like compression. As the jaw changes the cranium tries to adjust to keep the balance and things start distorting from optimal alignment.

When the cranium alignment is not ideal it also then impacts the alignment of the upper neck. Headaches can be caused by issues in the upper neck and/or alignment issues and tightness in the cranium.

What we recommend is that when braces get put on or removed, and each time the tensions are adjusted that a physio skilled in cranial assessments and releases assesses your neck and cranial bones. This way they can identify areas of tension and restriction early to help prevent headaches and other issues.

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