Photo by Azamat Zhanisov on Unsplash

By ALY DUTY

Sometime it can be hard to “shut off” the day when you’re trying to go to sleep. We’ve all been there: running thoughts of tomorrow’s obligations and worries can leave you tossing and turning. It’s nights like these when stress, worry, and anxiety from the day can spill over into your sleep cycle, negatively affecting your quality of sleep—and your health and wellbeing the next day. Did you know that poorly managed stress can lead to teeth grinding and clenching at night? Today we’re talking about how this sleep issue can be the culprit for headache pain or even migraines during the day.

A “Tense” Night’s Sleep

Bruxism is the term used to describe teeth grinding or clenching. It’s not uncommon for people to unconsciously clench and grind their teeth during the day; you may find yourself tensing up your jaw during a stressful day at work, or even while watching a tense TV show or movie. Additionally, many patients suffer from bruxism while asleep. When teeth grinding occurs while you are sleeping, it can sometimes be hard to notice at first. However, the following symptoms can alert you to negative nighttime habits:

• Increased tooth pain

• Increased sensitivity

• Jaw pain or soreness

• Muscle stiffness or pain in the neck and shoulders

• Fatigue

• Tension headaches or migraines

• Earaches

Additionally, your local dentist may detect signs of bruxism at your routine cleaning and examination. Worn enamel or flattened teeth are a sign that your teeth are under dangerous pressure at night.

The Relationship Between Bruxism and Headaches

Dentists and other health professionals have noticed a strong correlation between bruxism and head pain or migraines. The main reason? It begins with your temporomandibular joint, or the TMJ. This joint functions as a hinge for your jaw, allowing it to move freely to chew and speak. However, the muscles surrounding the TMJ, when put under unnecessary stress from bruxism, can become fatigued, sore, stiff, and painful. When you clench your teeth at night, the jaw muscles surrounding and supporting the TMJ tighten. The tightness from these over-worked muscles can put strain on surrounding muscles, leading to tension-style headaches.

Finding Relief

If you suffer from bruxism, know that you do not have to live with the painful symptoms. For many people, learning how to adequately cope with daily stress and anxiety helps to reduce or even eliminate night-time grinding. By implementing healthy lifestyle changes such as daily meditation, eating a healthier diet, taking anti-anxiety medication, or starting a fitness routine, you may discover a natural decline in your bruxism symptoms. Additionally, you can also be fitted for a custom night guard by your local dentist or TMJ disorder specialist. These plastic oral appliances are easy to wear and prevent teeth-to-teeth contact in the night. This significantly reduces enamel erosion and can prevent undue strain on jaw and facial muscles that contribute to headaches from bruxism.

If you are living with symptoms of bruxism, do not wait to see a specialist; teeth grinding and clenching can cause lasting damage to teeth and cause unnecessary muscle pain and discomfort. A little-known fact is that studies show people clench or grind their teeth five times as hard at night versus during the day; this is because your ‘conscious’ brain shuts down at night and doesn’t restrain the jaw muscles when asleep. Often, this is responsible for broken teeth, broken dental restorations, and enamel wear.