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Is teeth grinding causing your headaches?: How to tell and what to do about it

December 21, 2022 4 min read

Is teeth grinding causing your headaches?: How to tell and what to do about it

Do you suffer from dull headaches that begin at the temples? Do your headaches typically occur in the morning? Have you noticed your headaches are accompanied by increased tooth pain, jaw and facial pain, or worn-down or broken teeth? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might suffer from teeth grinding or TMJ headaches. But not to worry! We’re here to help you understand the cause of these headaches and find relief.


Keep reading on as we help you determine whether your headaches and teeth grinding are linked and inform you on what your treatment options are. We’ll also take a deep dive into how and why teeth grinding, teeth clenching, and TMJ disorder can cause headaches.


What causes teeth grinding headaches and TMJ headaches? 


Headaches can have a wide range of causes, from changes in hormone levels to food triggers and stress. In fact, headaches are also one of the most common symptoms associated with teeth grinding and if you’re reading this post you might relate to craving relief from teeth grinding headaches.


So what exactly is the link between teeth grinding and headaches? Let’s dive a little into anatomy and physiology to answer this. When you suffer from bruxism, commonly known as teeth grinding, the consistent grinding or clenching of the teeth puts strain on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). When bruxism is left untreated, an individual may also suffer from TMJ disorder, a condition characterized by pain and compromised movement of the jaw. Both bruxism and TMJ disorder can result in headaches for those affected.


The TMJ is a joint that connects the skull to the jaw and facilitates essential movements required for talking and chewing. The TMJ is also surrounded by muscles that control the jaw by contracting and releasing, namely the masseter and temporalis muscles. These muscles and the TMJ become overworked during teeth grinding episodes, causing strain in the jaw and the surrounding muscles. Tension within the TMJ can spread throughout the head and neck, resulting in headaches, migraines, and chronic tension headaches.


How can I differentiate a clenching teeth headache from other headaches?


While headaches may have many causes and can occur at any point throughout the day, one way to know if your headache might be a teeth grinding headache is if it occurs in the morning, or upon waking up. A study published in 2020 found a significant and direct relationship between sleep bruxism and morning headaches.


Another recent study concluded that those with TMJ disorder are more likely to suffer from migraine headaches compared to those without TMJ disorder. While a correlation has been observed between teeth clenching and headaches, research studies are ongoing to fully understand the relationship between bruxism and headaches.


To narrow down the cause of your headache, pay extra attention to when your headache develops, whether you have an accompanying toothache, sore jaw muscles, or popping/clicking of the jaw. These can all be signs that your headache is caused by teeth grinding. If you’ve determined bruxism is the cause of your headaches, we have you covered with potential remedies. We’ll discuss bruxism solutions below that you can try to decrease the frequency of teeth grinding, and as a result, teeth grinding headaches and migraines.  


How to get relief from teeth grinding headaches (headaches from bruxism)?


Now that you’ve identified that you suffer from teeth grinding headaches, we can work to prevent bruxism. An easy and quick solution is to use a night guard. Our night and mouth guards can protect your teeth from clenching or grinding as well as to prevent teeth grinding and the painful symptoms that come with it. The material that forms the mouth guard provides a protective barrier between your lower and upper teeth, working to relieve jaw and muscle tension. The decrease in jaw and muscle tension can then lead to a reduction of bruxism symptoms such as teeth grinding headaches. 


Another treatment plan for teeth grinding headaches is to solve the underlying cause of your teeth grinding. For many of us, stress is a large contributor to bruxism. While it might be easier said than done, finding ways to relieve your stress could be the answer to preventing teeth grinding, which will then prevent extra strain and tension on those jaw muscles we discussed earlier. This stress relief can then, in turn, prevent headaches. To learn more about fast-acting and long-term stress relief solutions, check out our article on the correlation between stress and bruxism.


Using Botox injections and acupuncture therapy to treat teeth grinding headaches?


Some other solutions for treating teeth grinding headaches include Botox injections or acupuncture therapy. If you’ve never heard of these as treatments for teeth grinding, they might seem a little unconventional, but research has shown both treatments to be helpful in reducing pain associated with bruxism.


Botox injections can help relax the facial muscles involved in teeth grinding, preventing future teeth grinding episodes. Similarly, small needles placed at specific trigger points during acupuncture therapy can help to relieve jaw muscle tension, reducing the frequency of teeth grinding or clenching. Acupuncture therapy has also been noted as an effective treatment option for stress and anxiety, which is also a common cause of teeth grinding.


There is relief available for headaches and bruxism


Remember that headaches, as well as bruxism, can have many causes and triggers. Determining the cause of your bruxism can help in your journey to relieve the symptoms associated with teeth grinding, such as teeth grinding headaches. We’re here to help you identify the cause of your teeth grinding and provide you with resources on bruxism and TMJ disorder treatments. Stay tuned to Word of Mouth as we continue to share information on all things teeth grinding along with treatment options, both new and old!

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