Dental vertigo is a common complaint among my patients. Many of my patients experienced vertigo at or after the dentist. In this article, I will share five causes of dental vertigo.

1. Neck

When you are reclined in the dental chair with your head turned to the side, that is a very awkward position for your neck. If you remain that way for more than a few minutes, your neck can come out of alignment. This especially affects the first and second cervical vertebrae, C1 atlas bone and C2 axis bone.

If you notice that your neck is making a crunching, popping, grinding, clicking, or clunking sounds when you turn your head from side to side, then you may have cervical vertigo. To learn more about this root cause, click here.

2. TMJ

Very close to the neck is the temporomandibular joint. This jaw joint is also known as TMJ. Some TMJ issues after dental work include a TMJ sprain, inflammation of the TMJ, or TMJ alignment issues.

Opening your mouth extremely wide as you might do at the dentist can cause a sprain to the TMJ. Other activities that can sprain the TMJ include yawning extremely wide or taking a bite out of a really big sandwich. TMJ sprain as a cause of dental vertigo is more likely if you had to open your mouth really wide.

Another risk factor for TMJ as a cause of dental vertigo is having force or pressure applied to your lower teeth or lower jaw. This may occur during a dental surgery or more extensive procedure involving the lower teeth.


BPPV is the most common inner ear cause of vertigo. If you already have BPPV, then reclining in the dental chair may trigger a spin for you. The spin should hopefully only last for a minute or two, but maybe quite intense. You may spin again or your spin may get worse when you tilt your head to the side while reclined. If you have BPPV, you may also spin again for a minute or two when you stand up after you finish.

If you do not already have BPPV, certainly the drilling involved with some dental surgeries can cause a new onset of BPPV. That is the crystals in your inner ear can get shaken loose from the vibration of drilling.

If you got a new onset of BPPV from dental care, you may feel weird after the dental work. Your strange feelings may get better over time, but may not resolve completely until you have the BPPV successfully treated.

Someone may experience dental vertigo due to a current case of BPPV, or new onset of BPPV. In either case, BPPV treatment is the best next step.

4. Viral attack

If you have a history of cold sores around your mouth or lips, then dental work can trigger an oral herpes outbreak. This can happen even if you have not experienced any cold sores for many years.

This viral attack triggered by dental work can cause cold sores to show up on your lips. The oral herpes virus may even travel down your vestibular nerve to attack your inner ear. That causes the second most common inner ear cause of vertigo, vestibular neuritis. In this case, vestibular neuritis is caused by a virus.

This type of vertigo usually starts a day or more after the dental procedure and is really intense. If you are prone to viral attacks after dental procedures, you may want to discuss pre-medicating with your doctor or dentist. This can help prevent viral vestibular neuritis in the future.

5. Bacterial infection or Abscess in Upper Molar

If you end up getting a bacterial infection or abscess, especially in your upper molar, that can cause dental vertigo. You can get a bacterial case of vestibular neuritis. This infection is caused by bacteria.

Similar to the viral attack, the bacterial infection or abscess may not occur right away. Bacterial infection may build up a day or more after the dental procedure. This would represent a complication to dental work that does affect some unfortunate people. In that case, antibiotics would likely be prescribed by your dentist or oral surgeon to address the infection.

In some cases, the bacterial infection can spread out and affect your vestibular system, which is right near your upper molars. Not everyone who gets a bacterial infection or abscess after dental work will get vestibular neuritis.

However, some antibiotics are ototoxic. This means that certain medications used to treat bacterial infections may cause temporary or permanent damage to your ears and vestibular system.

I recommend you always read up on medication side effects when you get a new prescription filled. Sometimes your doctor can recommend another medication that is not ototoxic. Other times, your doctor may decide that the benefit of the medication is worth the potential risk.

I hope this summary of some of the causes of dental vertigo is helpful. If you would like to learn more about how my team and I help people with dental vertigo and/or dizziness, schedule a consultation today!

To learn more about the connection between teeth and vertigo, visit this page.

For tips if you get dizzy at the dentist, check out this article.


This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content and any comments by Dr. Kim Bell, DPT are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The details of any case mentioned in this post represent a typical patient that Dr. Bell might see and do not describe the circumstances of a specific individual.

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