The Cause of Your Headache Could Be in your Mouth
There’s not much that gets a day off to a bad start more than waking in the morning with a headache. While there are many conditions that can cause a headache, from allergies to high blood pressure, it might surprise you to learn that the reason for this pain might have to do with your teeth. And we’re not talking about tooth decay or gum disease.
At Clearwater Dental Services, we know what to look for.
Grinding your sleep during sleep, or sleep bruxism as it is medically called, is one of the more common causes of head and jaw pain upon rising. It affects 10 percent of the adult population and up to 15 percent of children. Most cases of teeth grinding (nearly 80%) occur during sleep.
The masseter, the muscle located in the cheek, is one of the strongest muscles in the entire body. It can exert up to 600 pounds of force per square inch on the molars in the rear of your mouth and can have a huge impact on your jaw and teeth health. Is there any wonder teeth grinding can cause a headache?
In addition to headaches, teeth grinding (or clenching) can cause other cumulative effects. Those include:
- Receding gums
- Jaw joint disorders like TMJ (Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder)
- Tooth pain
- Loosening of teeth from the gums
- Fracturing of teeth
- Loss of teeth
- Wearing away of teeth and enamel
About 10 percent of those who have bruxism grind their teeth so hard that they wear away the enamel and eventually need reconstructive surgery. Teeth grinders can wear away .2 millimeters of tooth enamel in just a couple of years. We don’t want you to wait until you get to that point, however. If we catch your teeth grinding early, we can prevent permanent damage from happening in the first place.
Do You Grind Your Teeth?
Other than morning headaches and jaw pain, how do you know that you’re grinding your teeth in your sleep? After all, you’re asleep! Sometimes someone sleeping in the room with you will hear the grinding. And, like we said, if you wake up with a sore jaw or your head hurts, there’s a sign that something’s up. But there are other signs as well. If you find that you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it might be time to come in for a check-up.
- Your face or jawline aches or is tender
- You have soreness in or near the ear
- The jaw joint locks, preventing you from opening or closing your mouth
- Pain with chewing
- Clicking when the mouth is open
By looking at your teeth, we can determine whether you grind them at night and what damage has been and will be caused if the grinding continues.
What Causes Teeth Grinding?
There could be several causes for teeth grinding. Certain medications, like anti-anxiety pills, can have have side effects that include jaw clenching or teeth gnashing. In addition, hyperactive people, including those with ADHD, have a higher chance of bruxism. Drinking alcohol and consuming caffeine can also intensify teeth grinding. Teeth grinding is also a red flag for sleep apnea. (In order to diagnose sleep apnea, we would first send you to a specialist who could order a sleep study.)
What Can You Do About Damage Due to Teeth Grinding?
The good news is that tooth damage related to bruxism can be prevented. You can try some of these tactics at first:
- Cut back on (or avoid altogether) foods and drinks that contain caffeine, like colas, chocolate, and coffee.
- Relax your jaw muscles at night right before bedtime–hold a warm washcloth against your cheek in front of your earlobe.
- Avoid chewing gum (it causes your jaw muscles to get more used to clenching and makes you more likely to grind your teeth).
A more foolproof way to prevent teeth grinding at night, however, is to wear a dental appliance while you sleep. We can fit you with a night guard or bite splint to keep your jaw secure at night, helping you sleep better and protecting your teeth at the same time!
Since there are a number of appliances that can treat nighttime bruxism, it can be hard to determine which one is right for you when choosing from all the different types. Schedule an appointment with us so that our staff can find the best course of treatment for your bruxism.