Teeth Grinding, Jaw Clenching and Chronic Headache

April 16, 2012

You may not even realize you are responsible for triggering your own chronic headache.  That’s because the lesser known migraine triggers, teeth grinding, and jaw clenching, often occur while you sleep.  Not to mention, you probably associate grinding and clenching with the rest of the pain symptoms that accompany your migraine attack.

Neurostimulation, used to treat migraines, targets the same nerves affected by teeth grinding and jaw clenching.  During a migraine attack, blood vessels dilate and place pressure on these nerves and the result is intense pain.

Stress and tension have been identified as chronic headache triggers.  They are also the leading cause for nighttime teeth grinding and jaw clenching activity.  Certain habits, which lead to this condition, should be broken.  The following suggestions can help break your self-destructive pattern and allow you to have a restful night’s sleep and wake up refreshed and pain-free:

  • Wear a mouth guard to sleep – there are various options on the market, ranging from dental guards sold in drugstores, to specialized devices marketed by dental professionals for conditions such as TMJ.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol – grinding has been reported to worsen after alcohol consumption
  • Avoid or reduce caffeinated foods and beverages, such as chocolate, cola, and coffee.
  • Break your habit of chewing on pencils – the more you get used to chewing on things that are not food, including gum, the more likely your jaw muscles get used to clenching and grinding.
  • Become mindful – if you notice during the day that you are clenching your teeth, make the effort to position your tongue gently between your upper and lower teeth to loosen your jaw.
  • Establish a calming evening routine – make sure that by the time you go to bed you and your muscles are in a calm place.

So if you realize that you wake up in the morning exhausted and with a chronic headache, it may be that you have spent your sleeping hours in a stressful state, grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw.  If lifestyle changes such as the stress releasing techniques listed above don’t offer symptom relief, you may need to consider alternative treatment options.  Interventional pain management procedures like neurostimulation may offer the long-term results you need, after you first get a mouth guard to protect those pearly whites!

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