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Federal Employees Dental Program

The link between migraines and oral bacteria

If you’re suffering from migraines, you might want to talk to your dentist about it. There may be a connection between certain oral bacteria and migraines, according to a 2016 study. This type of bacteria increases nitric oxide in the bloodstream, which can trigger a migraine. Although your medical doctor should be a priority when it comes to migraine treatment, there is an additional way to keep yourself strong and fight this pain: regular visits to the dentist.

Don’t skip your cleanings!

Regular teeth cleanings not only make your mouth feel better, they can also help prevent issues such as tooth loss and alert you to developing health issues such as diabetes and severe anxiety.

In addition, if you are having severe headaches but aren’t sure if they’re migraines, your dentist can first check for other causes, such as a misaligned jaw or TMJ. These issues can usually be treated by your general dentist.

Be careful what you eat

What you eat is just as important in preventing migraines as keeping your mouth clean. Not only does reducing the amount of refined sugar in your diet help your overall health, but it helps reduce the amount of sugar buildup in your mouth, which can lead to decay and bacteria.

Migraines are also known to be triggered by foods high in nitrates and nitrites, such as processed meats like hot dogs, ham and bacon, as well as alcohol and chocolate.

Although it’s not known if certain foods can stop migraines, we do know that some foods are better for you because they lack a high amount of migraine-causing nitrates and nitrites, a type of salt that is added to food for coloring and to prolong its shelf life. Fresh fruits, cheese and fresh greens are less likely to trigger migraines, while drinking fluoridated water is a long-standing and proven aid for overall health, both for hydration and oral care.

Be sure to check with your doctor first before making significant changes to your diet.

Stick with the basics — brushing and flossing

Not all bacteria is bad, of course. Much of what our body produces is helpful, and necessary. But harmful bacteria is neither needed nor wanted. When it comes to bacteria linked to cavities or migraines, the easiest way to help keep it at bay is the old-fashioned way: brushing and flossing. Try to use a toothbrush and toothpaste at work to brush after lunch, but if that’s not possible, chewing gum with xylitol works well, too. Although regular brushing and flossing won’t necessarily keep the migraines away, it will certainly help to prevent other problems with unwanted bacteria in your mouth.