If you have headaches, you’re not alone. Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that about half the world’s population has experienced recurring headaches during the past year. Of course, that doesn’t make your pain and discomfort any easier to bear. You want to know why your headaches are occurring and, even more importantly, how to resolve them.
The American Headache Society says dental issues cause many of the headaches people experience. A bite disorder or dental problem can often be the cause of recurring headaches. Grinding is one of the most common causes of dental-related headaches, and without the help of your dentist, it can also be one of the most difficult causes to identify.
In many cases, patients may experience these headaches in the morning as a result of teeth grinding during sleep. That means they may not even be aware they’re doing it. This is a common sign and side effect of a temporomandibular disorder (TMD).
A Dawson Academy trained dentist, Dr. Freano has focused his post graduate training on the diagnosis and treatment of complex dental health problems that are the result of a TMD. Dentists commonly refer to it as TMJ and offer TMJ therapy to relieve symptoms. Treating TMJ is the key to both restoring oral health and lasting dentistry.
Frequent headaches related to TMJ have several common symptoms:
- Pain in the temples or back of the head
- Frequent morning headaches
- Radiating pain in the shoulders, neck and upper back
- Migraine headaches
Treatment for TMJ Headaches
Dr. Freano performs a comprehensive exam, evaluating the entire occlusal system to identify where there is an imbalance. He will create a treatment plan, or give you appropriate treatment recommendations. Some dental procedures he may recommend include:
- Mouth guard and splint therapy: Dr. Freano may recommend one of these removable appliances to reduce stress on the jaw joint and relieve headache symptoms in patients with a mild to moderate bite disorder. Patients can wear this custom-made appliance during sleep and stressful situations where they are more likely to grind or clench their teeth.
- Bite correction: there are a variety of ways to realign and restore balance to the bite, including restorative dentistry, cosmetic dentistry and orthodontics. Bite correction also helps avoid tooth loss that can be the result of damage caused by teeth grinding.
Why do people grind their teeth?
People grind their teeth for lots of reasons. Sometimes, grinding occurs as the result of stress – usually during an uncommonly stressful period. If you have headaches often when you wake, it’s more likely your grinding problem is the result of an unbalanced bite.
Your teeth are designed to line up in pairs – 16 top teeth match up with 16 bottom teeth (assuming you haven’t lost teeth or had teeth extracted). When that balance is disturbed, either through the aforementioned tooth loss or from a misaligned bite, your teeth will seek out a way to achieve that balance. That’s what causes grinding – it’s your mouth’s unrelenting desire to find that balance it was anatomically designed to have.
Grinding occurs most commonly at night when we’re not conscious of its occurring. During the day when we’re more aware of our actions, we’re usually able to prevent grinding from occurring, either consciously or subconsciously.
How does nighttime tooth grinding cause headaches?
As you can imagine, that continual search for balance and equilibrium means your jaw muscles are constantly contracting and clenching. The result is significant muscle strain, and that can translate into chronic headaches. What’s more, regular grinding can cause your tooth surfaces to wear unevenly, which can result in your bite becoming even more misaligned and “out of whack.” In turn, that causes the grinding to become worse – and so the cycle continues.
What can you do to prevent nighttime tooth grinding?
If you’re experiencing regular headaches when you wake up or in the hours soon after waking, the most important thing you can do is to see your dentist for an evaluation. Even though you may not be able to see the telltale signs of nighttime grinding, your dentist can.
Once your grinding has been diagnosed, your dentist will help you decide how to prevent it from happening. In most cases, that involves one of two routes: A bite guard, which will be custom-fitted to your mouth, or bite balancing. Bite balancing involves dental treatments and procedures that get right to the heart of your unbalanced bite, eliminating the problems that are causing your to grind your teeth in the first place. Bite balancing offers an additional advantage: By eliminating gaps, unevenly worn surfaces, crooked teeth and other defects, you can also decrease the likelihood of cavities, gum disease or other problems that typically occur when a bite remains misaligned.
No matter which solution you decide is the better one for your needs, Dr. Freano is ready to help. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Freano today to learn how you can become headache free.