How malocclusions can cause head and neck pain

Headaches and neck pain can feel debilitating. In some cases, though, the cause resides in your mouth thanks to malocclusion.

What Are Malocclusions?

Malocclusions are a misalignment of the teeth. Misaligned teeth often present difficulties in chewing. Ideally, you should have no crowded teeth or space issues inside the mouth, and they should easily fit together without being twisted or rotated. The type of malocclusion depends on how the teeth improperly align.


In many cases, malocclusion is hereditary, meaning it is passed generationally. But there are also some conditions or habits that affect the jaw’s structure and shape.

  • Thumb sucking as a young child
  • Extended bottle feeding in early childhood
  • Frequent pacifier usage beyond age three
  • A cleft lift and palate
  • Injuries that misalign the jaw
  • Misshaped or impacted teeth
  • Mouth or jaw tumors
  • Negligent dental care that results in improperly fitting fillings, crowns, or braces
  • Airway obstruction – caused by allergies or enlarged adenoids or tonsils


Symptoms often depend on the malocclusion classification. They can be slight or severe. Some of the more common symptoms include:

  • Improper teeth alignment
  • Facial appearance changes
  • Frequently biting tongue or inner cheeks
  • Breathing through the mouth as opposed to the nose
  • Difficulty biting or chewing
  • Unable to correctly bite into food
  • Speech issues, including a lisp
What are malocclusions?


Malocclusions fall into three classifications.

Class 1 - This type is the most common. The patient has a normal bite; however, the upper teeth overlap the bottom teeth slightly.

Class 2 - This type is referred to as retrognathism or, more commonly, an overbite. This is when the patient’s upper teeth and jaw overlap the bottom teeth and jaw severely.

Class 3 - This is the opposite of Class 2. In this case, the lower jaw protrudes forward. The lower jaw and teeth then overlap the upper jaw and teeth. This type is referred to as prognathism or, more commonly, an underbite.

Malocclusions can be fixed in a variety of ways depending on the class. An orthodontist needs to properly diagnose your classification and determine if you need:

Can Misaligned or Crooked Teeth Cause Headaches?

Headaches are typically caused by hypertension or a lack of sleep. Malocclusions are another cause of headaches that are more common than people realize.

An improper bite, caused by a malocclusion, leads to jaw pain or temporomandibular (TMJ) joint issues. These occur in the jaw muscles and its joints as well as the nerves associated with chronic facial pain.

The jaw becomes tense when teeth are improperly aligned. That causes muscle exhaustion, and that limits the jaw’s ability to function, but it also affects the surrounding areas of the jaw. The pain can present as a headache since the jaw joint connects to the skull. That connection allows the pain to extend in an upward direction, thus, causing a headache.

Untreated malocclusions result in clicking or popping noises in the jaw, pain in the neck and jaw, and headaches. This means that crowded teeth, misaligned teeth, crooked teeth, overbites, underbites, and other malocclusions can cause headaches.

Illustration of an individual with a headache from a malocclusion

Can Misaligned or Crooked Teeth Cause Neck Pain?

Teeth or a jaw that has been improperly set can cause debilitating neck pain due to faulty alignment. Ideally, the top and bottom teeth should align perfectly. They should function like gears fitting together.

However, the human mouth rarely works that way. Teeth grow in crooked and misaligned for a variety of reasons, and that can lead to bite and speech issues. It also strains the temporomandibular joints and muscles that move the jaw.

The resulting strain is what causes severe neck pain from tooth misalignment and, in some cases, headaches.

Treatment Options

The treatment for malocclusion-caused neck pain can be found in orthodontics. An orthodontist can resolve mouth malocclusions using braces or retainers — these devices move the teeth to their correct position. As a result, this lessens the pain found in the muscles and joints surrounding the jaw.

There is an alternative option for adults not interested in wearing standard braces. Invisalign aligners are clear, thus, avoiding the appearance of metal brackets on your teeth.

Find a Dentist Near Me

Consult your dentist to discuss any questions about malocclusions. Or, check out The Smile Generation Find a Dentist Tool to find a dentist near you for all your mouth health needs. You can read patient reviews, peruse staff bios, and schedule an appointment online with a click of your mouse.

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How Malocclusions Can Cause Headaches, Kuhni Orthodontic Studio, April 22, 2019,

Exploring The Link Between Teeth Misalignment And Headaches, Invisalign Center, January 21, 2022,

Relationship Between Crooked Teeth and Neck Pain, Pacific West Dental Group, July 26, 2017,

Malocclusion of teeth, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai,

Burke, Darla, “Malocclusion of the Teeth”, Healthline, November 8, 2022,

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