What’s the connection? That’s probably your first question.
Most people are unaware that headaches can also be caused because of the stress on your jaw muscles. This stress can result when you clench and rub your teeth horizontally.
Have you been getting headaches when you wake up in the morning or at the end of the day, for no apparent reason? Then, it could be time to explore the possibility of bruxism. Of course, you’ll want to check with your medical practitioner for the probability of migraines. Or, the chance of ear infections or any other issues with the neck, nose, and throat. But, once that possibility is ruled out, you should visit an expert dentist who will examine you and identify bruxism. And, the simplest solution to the problem is getting a mouth guard for teeth grinding.
Dentists Conduct Simple Tests to Determine the Need for a Night Guard
A few simple tests can indicate to dentists if you have bruxism. Here are some of them:
Spraying a Muscle Soothing Agent on the Face Muscles
The doctor sprays a vapo-cooling agent on the sides of your face and neck. If the headache seems to ease, that’s an indication that the pain is related to muscle stress and the resulting soreness. Since the pain is related to sore tissues, wearing teeth grinding guards could help with the problem. Often times, dentists also check for temporomandibular joint disorders that could be causing the headaches.
Examining the Oral Structure
A visual examination can tell if you have bruxism. Patients who regularly grind their teeth typically wear down the cuspids of the crowns. The cuspids are the uneven points of the canines and molars that are essential for tearing and chewing your food. When you clench and rub your teeth, the cusps wear away or get abraded, which is why that is the best indication of the need for a mouth guard for teeth grinding. Keep in mind that unless you’re eating, the crowns of the upper and lower teeth don’t come into contact. That’s how you maintain the proper structure of your teeth.
In case you’ve been complaining of headaches, the doctor will ask you to tilt your head toward the ceiling. And, then, tap your jaw shut gently. Next, she may ask you to tilt your head toward the floor and again tap your jaw shut. If the bite feels different, that’s another indication that your neck and jaw muscles are sore and bruxism is the possible cause. Getting a night guard to prevent grinding when you sleep is a good solution.
Examining the Inner Tissues of the Cheeks and Lips
Yet another form of bruxism is the tendency to chew or bite at the skin inside the cheeks or lower lips. The dentist can detect this form of bruxism by looking for tiny wounds or damaged skin. The constant motion of chewing can result in headaches in addition to pain from the tissues.
Preventing Bruxism Can Help Ease Headaches
Wearing teeth grinding guards will no doubt help with bruxism and the resultant headaches. But, you’ll also want to explore if you clench teeth while sleeping or when awake. The dentist will ask you a series of questions like:
- Do you get headaches in the morning or evening? That can indicate whether you have sleep bruxism or awake bruxism.
- Does the headache start at the temples in the form of dull pain?
- Do your jaw muscles seem tired or tense? Do you have trouble opening or closing your mouth?
- Is the grinding so loud that it awakens your partner?
- Do your neck, face, and jaw seem sore and achy?
- Has your partner complained that you snore at night? Do you wake up in the morning feeling more tired than when you went to bed?
Bruxism and Headaches Are Closely Interlinked
While bruxism can directly cause headaches, the two conditions are more closely linked than you may think. As the expert dentists at our clinic will explain, the reasons why you grind your teeth could also be causing the headaches. For instance:
- Anger, anxiety or stress: Extreme emotional disturbances can act as a trigger for clenching or grinding teeth. At the same time, stress can cause migraines and severe headaches.
- Consuming excessive alcohol: Taking a glass or two of wine before going to bed can relax you and help you sleep better. But, drinking too many alcoholic drinks can make it hard to sleep properly. As a result, the jaw muscles become hyperactive and tend to clench. Wearing a night guard when sleeping can prevent the clenching and allow you to sleep better. Hangovers are a common side effect of too much alcohol, so restricting your alcohol intake can help with both problems.
- Drinking too much coffee: Caffeinated drinks keep you active and energized all through the day. But, the caffeine in your blood can make it hard to fall asleep. And, disturbed sleep patterns often lead to bruxism. Similar to the side effects of alcohol, caffeine makes it hard for muscles to relax.
- Concentrating intensely: If you tend to focus intensely on activities like reading or using digital devices, chances are that you unconsciously clench your teeth. And, that’s a condition called awake bruxism. That could partly be the reason why kids are more prone to bruxism and why children tend to get over the habit as they grow older. The doctors at our clinic for children’s dentistry can advise you best on how to help your child. Do keep in mind that intense concentration also leads to headaches.
Preventing the Triggers for Bruxism Could Help Avoid Headaches and Vice Versa
With the help of the dentist, it is possible to identify the causes of your particular form of bruxism. Of course, getting a mouth guard for teeth grinding also helps.
Take Up Stress-Relieving Techniques
Adopt any stress-relieving techniques that will help with the teeth grinding. For instance, try deep breathing and meditation that relaxes muscles and calms you. Exercising regularly releases endorphins or feel-good hormones that take away anxiety. A happier frame of mind can lower the impulse to grind teeth. Depending on what works for you, consider options like biofeedback therapy and yoga. Take time off on weekends to sign up for a massage or a relaxing bath with aromatherapy products.
Follow a Sleep Routine
A careful bedtime routine will relax you and induce deeper sleep patterns. Complete relaxation may prevent bruxism. The dentist will walk you through precautions like avoiding digital time, alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine before going to bed. Brush and floss your teeth and maintain a comfortable temperature in the bedroom. Keeping the interiors dark and moving electronics out of the room can also promote better sleep.
Physical Therapy to Ease Oral Muscles
In addition to buying a night guard, get relief from the headaches and jaw pain by signing up for physical therapy. The dentist might advise you on the movements you can make to relax oral muscles and prevent bruxism.
Expert dentists agree that bruxism is often an unconscious habit. Patients grind their teeth without realizing it and training to break the habit could be the key. You’ll begin by making a firm decision to avoid clenching and stop every time you do it. Therapists also recommend that you keep a journal and record the times when you clench. You might just find a pattern related to your daily activities. Over time, you’ll train the subconscious mind to avoid grinding even when you’re asleep. Wearing teeth grinding guards as often as possible can help break the habit. Also, try practices like maintaining a small gap between the upper and lower jaws when at rest. Or, place the tip of your tongue between the teeth.
Get Solutions for Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a condition where patients stop breathing for a few seconds while asleep. This condition occurs when the tissues in the airways collapse and cut off breathing. The brain responds by clenching the jaw, so you wake slightly to resume respiration. Most patients have no recollection of waking and falling back to sleep. But, the constant sleep and wake process results in disturbed sleep and snoring. You’ll also notice sore and achy jaw muscles that transmit the discomfort to the head. For this reason, dentists may suggest solutions to prevent snoring and keep the airways open.
Night Guards Are Possibly the Best Solution for Bruxism
Depending on the kind of bruxism you have, the dentist will recommend the right solution for you. For instance, you can go for mouth guards or mouth splints. The purpose of the appliance is to create a barrier between the teeth so they cannot come into contact when you’re asleep. Any pressure you exert when grinding distributes evenly across the jaw so the teeth remain protected.
A mouth guard for teeth grinding is an appliance that works similarly to custom guards that athletes wear when playing contact sports. Teeth grinding guards are made out of tough plastic or rubber; though, you can also buy generic guards at the local pharmacy. You’ll boil the plastic for a recommended amount of time, and then, insert it into the mouth. Biting down hard makes the night guard take the shape of your teeth and mouth. Every night, you’ll insert the guard and prevent bruxism. The appliance typically wears away over a period of 12 months, so you might have to get replacements.
Mouth splints are also effective options and likely to last you longer than a night guard. Made of harder plastic, splints are typically customized to fit perfectly over the teeth in the upper jaw or lower jaw. The dentist will make the right recommendation after examining you and exploring the kind of bruxism you have.
Consider Opting for Customized Appliances
When considering your options for teeth grinding guards, know that it is preferable to get the mouth guards customized. The dentist will take an impression of your oral structure and place an order for a perfect fit. Not only are customized guards more comfortable to wear, but they’ll ensure that your teeth remain in their positions. Wearing ill-fitting guards could result in the shifting of your teeth in addition to causing and perhaps, worsening problems with the bite or occlusion. You might even end up with gaps between the teeth that look unsightly and will eventually need cosmetic dentistry.
Get the Best Results from Your Teeth Grinding Guards
Wearing a mouth guard for teeth grinding regularly can help prevent bruxism and the headaches that result from the condition. Follow the instructions of the dentist regarding the maintenance and upkeep of the appliance and you’ll find significant relief from the discomfort and have a better quality of life.
Do keep in mind that irrespective of the type of mouth guard for teeth grinding you choose; Dr. Jennifer Silver at our Southcentre Dental clinic will also recommend that you go for behavior therapy. That’s because night guards can only prevent teeth from rubbing against each other. Without taking steps to break the habit, you’ll continue to exert pressure on the jaws and have headaches.
Have you been getting headaches that cannot be explained by any other medical conditions? You might want to check with the dentist and ask to be tested for bruxism. Prepare to be surprised at how easily the problem can be corrected. All you’ll need is a customized night guard and you can sleep comfortably all through the night. Awaken refreshed and ready to take on the day.
If you would like more information about how teeth grinding and bruxism connects with headaches; stop by at our Southcentre clinic and talk to our expert doctors. Use our website page to add your contact details and schedule an appointment. If you would prefer to get information over the phone, click on this button to dial the number shown: (403) 278-1415.
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- Bruxism (teeth grinding)
Dr. Jennifer Silver is a highly accomplished dental surgeon with a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of Melbourne, Australia. Her educational accomplishments include deans honours list, an oral surgery award and best research project. Prior to this degree, she graduated with honors from Dalhousie University’s Dental Hygiene Program and worked in this field for 10 years.
The areas of dentistry that holds special interest for Dr. Silver include oral medicine and whole-body dentistry. She currently devotes time and resources toward helping patients with TMJ pain and sleep apnea, while continuing to provide general dentistry as well. Future interests include devoting time to additional oral surgery training. Jen strives to treat her patients as if they were family. She strongly believes in a multi-disciplinary approach for patient care. She is part of a large network of specialists that she trusts and collaborates with when helping patients.