Headaches & Migraines

Did you know that the cause could be your teeth?

Bruxism (tooth grinding and jaw clenching) has many effects on the sufferer. One of the most debilitating effects of Bruxism, however, may be headaches, migraines and chronic tension headaches. Those suffering from headaches and migraines often seek painkillers or advice from their GP to resolve the problem – after all, why would you assume a headache was caused by the clenching or grinding of teeth?

A lot of us have strange habits during sleep, such as snoring, involuntary leg movements – and sometimes even talking. Another habit that is more common than you think is actually the clenching of the jaw and/or grinding of teeth – thought to affect 80% of the population at some stage in their lives.

How does Bruxism cause some headaches and migraines?

During sleep, when your muscles commence the Bruxism activity, the Trigeminal Nerve System gets bombarded with signals that are misinterpreted. This results in a noxious stimulus to the fluid surrounding the brain. Some patients are more susceptible to this than others and the effects could result in a pounding headache or migraine.

The Trigeminal Nerve is the part of the nervous system responsible for sending pain, touch and temperature sensations from your face to your brain. It's a large, three-part nerve in your head that provides sensation. One section, called the Mandibular Nerve, involves motor function to help you chew and swallow. It is therefore the clenching and/or grinding that inflames the nerve and leads to the common side effects associated with Bruxism.

The therapeutic goal in migraine prevention is to limit the amount of noxious sensory input (that is, to limit your migraine "triggers") to the Trigeminal Sensory Nucleus – in this case, Bruxism. The way in which we can do this is by reducing the intensity of tooth grinding and clenching, thereby reducing the number of signals being sent back to the Trigeminal nerve system.

Though this identifies what could potentially be causing headaches, Bruxism is not the sole reason and anybody suffering from any of the symptoms mentioned previously should consult a medical professional to rule out other causes.

What treatments are available?

Due to a high percentage of Bruxism cases being caused by stress and anxiety, behavioural therapy may play an important role for some sufferers. Other common treatments options include: Botox, muscle relaxants and medications. All could be considered as part of a holistic approach.

However, for habitual bruxers, an Occlusal Splint may be the only viable option. An Occlusal Splint is a dental appliance, worn at night, that serves as a barrier between the two dental arches - mitigating the effects of Bruxism.

There are a number of splints and mouthguards available, including soft bite raising appliances, nightguards and the SCi splint. If you are suffering from headaches or migraines, or dental wear and tear, we recommend booking an appointment with your dentist for a consultation.