Headaches and Teeth Grinding
I’ve had interesting conversations with some of my patients lately regarding the topic of headaches and teeth grinding. We all get headaches, some more frequently than others and some more intense than others.
While there are numerous causes of headaches, few people make the connection that teeth grinding can cause headaches, specifically muscle tension headaches.
Many times, it comes down to an unbalanced bite or one that is not in harmony with the proper position of the jaw joints (TMJ). This misalignment causes the jaw muscles to become hyperactive and just like any other muscle that is overworked, they eventually become fatigued and sore. The result is that we complain of a headache.
It takes a trained dentist to determine if in fact the bite is in harmony with the jaw joints or it is not.
It may have everything or nothing to do with how your teeth look. I’ve seen what appeared to be a rather nice smile but the bite was off by a mile… without the patient even realizing it.
Interestingly enough, headaches are just one of many signs and symptoms of a bad bite. Other signs include worn teeth, loose teeth, chipped teeth or even teeth that have moved over time. I have even seen patients with sensitive teeth who thought they needed a root canal, only to find that their bite was the culprit. The bite was adjusted and the pain went away.
For many patients the key is in balancing the bite with the proper position of the jaw joints. There are several ways to do this depending on the severity of the bite discrepancy. Only a comprehensive bite analysis will reveal the best route to take.
Patients can typically find some relief with custom made bite guards. However, it is important to note that these bite guards must be fitted properly or they can cause more harm than good. And regardless, even a custom-made bite guard won’t correct the underlying problem. In fact problems can still worsen.
The first step in correcting the problem is a comprehensive examination and bite analysis by a dentist trained in this discipline to determine if indeed an unbalanced bite may be causing headaches.