We all tend to feel a bit groggy in the morning. We usually perk right up with a cup of coffee or tea. When you wake up every morning with chronic headaches; however, it can be difficult to start the day. If you wake up in the morning with headaches or sinus pain, you might suffer from teeth grinding headaches caused by sleep bruxism.
Bruxism is a condition where you grind or clench your teeth. Because bruxism often occurs at night, many people may be unaware that they even have it. Bruxism, along with temporomandibular joint disorder (commonly referred to as TMD or TMJ) and jaw clenching can cause many side effects including jaw pain, earaches, facial pain, tooth loss, and headaches. The Migraine Trust explains that jaw clenching and teeth grinding are closely related to tension-type headaches as well as migraines. Many people don’t realize that oral health problems may be the source of their headaches and migraines.
Can Grinding Teeth Cause Headaches?
The short answer is yes: teeth grinding can cause headaches. You can also get headaches from a related condition called TMD.
Headaches associated with these conditions are caused by strain, stress, and pressure put on the teeth and jaw muscles. When you grind your teeth, you put stress on the teeth themselves, and you add strain and pressure on your jaw muscles as well. Over time, this causes them to become overworked.
When you engage in teeth clenching and grinding while you sleep, you can exert up to 250 pounds of pressure on your teeth (University of Rochester). For reference, chewing only exerts about 20-40 pounds of pressure (Anderson, 2009). This extra pressure can cause sinus pain, headaches, and even migraines.
While it seems quite obvious that increased pressure on your upper and lower jaw and surrounding muscles can cause headaches, there may be another factor at play as well. A 2015 study found an association between bruxism headaches and poor sleep quality (Das et al 2015). It’s possible for grinding to wake you up at night, and when you’re not getting enough sleep or your sleep is poor quality, you can wake up with morning headaches or migraines.
How to Tell if Your Headaches are Caused by Teeth Grinding
Headaches can be a result of all sorts of things. The most surefire way to tell if your headaches are caused by teeth grinding is to visit your dentist and/or your primary care provider. Your dentist can check your teeth for wear and other signs of bruxism that you may not notice. Your primary care provider can examine you to check for other possible causes of your headaches such as sleep apnea.
While you’re waiting for an appointment, you can also look at your teeth to check for any signs of tooth wear or damage to restorations (such as crowns of bridges). Another way to tell if your headaches are likely from bruxism is to be aware of other symptoms, such as:
- Soreness in the jaw muscles/jaw joint
- Sore neck and facial muscles
- Cracked teeth or broken fillings
- Sensitive teeth
- Worn tooth enamel
- Headache that is noticeably worse in the morning
If you recognize these symptoms in yourself, bruxism is likely the culprit. Keep a list of your symptoms to give to your dentist or primary care provider.
How to Prevent Headaches from Bruxism
After you determine that your headaches are indeed from bruxism, you can take practical steps to reduce the frequency and severity of your headaches. The best way to alleviate the painful headaches is to identify what is causing your bruxism and what symptoms of bruxism you have to choose a treatment plan accordingly.
Stress Relief Exercises
One of the suspected causes of bruxism is stress, and clenching your teeth can also cause stress or tension headaches. Try to find ways to reduce your stress and anxiety in your daily life. This might include stress relief exercises, meditation, or yoga. A therapist may be able to help find the best stress relief exercises for you.
Another helpful treatment option is to get a custom night guard for bruxism. Splints, mouth guards, night guards, or oral appliances can reduce muscle tension and relieve pressure on your jaw joint, which might relieve your headaches. By creating a barrier between your top and bottom teeth, a night guard also has the additional benefit of protecting your teeth from damage and wear.
Snoring/Sleep Apnea Treatments
There are other conditions that are associated with bruxism as well. If you often snore, it might be related to sleep apnea. Some sleep disorders like sleep apnea can cause bruxism. If your bruxism is associated with these conditions or other sleep related disorders, resolving them will stop your headaches. People have found success treating sleep apnea with mouth guards, CPAP therapy, nasal masks, and more.
Finally, botox injected into the mandibular muscles (jaw muscles) has been useful for some people who suffer from migraines or headaches. Studies on the effectiveness of botox as a treatment for headaches have concluded: “Significant decrease from baseline was observed in patients in the Botox trial arm with regard to headache and migraine days, total hours of headache and recurrence of moderate/severe headache days” (Awan, 2016). Speak with your doctor or dentist about treatment options if you suspect oral problems to be the source of your headaches.
Waking up with a headache or migraine every morning can negatively affect your quality of life. Fortunately, when your headaches are caused by bruxism, there are many effective remedies. Because bruxism headaches may be caused by tension in your jaw and facial muscles, finding ways to reduce that tension can be helpful. Three common methods to try are stress reduction techniques, night guards, and botox injections. Finding the best treatment plan for you is critical to avoid increased pain and more invasive dental treatments such as dentures, root canals, or surgery (in the most severe cases).
If you want to try a night guard to relieve bruxism headaches, Pro Teeth Guard offers custom-fit mouthguards online for an affordable price. Our night guards are made in a dental lab using professional materials and processes. This is effectively the mouthguard you’d receive from a dentist, but at a lower price.
- Anderson, B. (2009). When Life is a Grind, Teeth Feel the Stress. Chicago Tribune. https://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/health/sns-health-teeth-stress-story.html
- Awan K. H. (2017). The therapeutic usage of botulinum toxin (Botox) in non-cosmetic head and neck conditions - An evidence based review. Saudi pharmaceutical journal : SPJ : the official publication of the Saudi Pharmaceutical Society, 25(1), 18–24. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsps.2016.04.024
- The Migraine Trust Writing Staff. (2016). Jaw tension in Migraine and Other Headache Disorders. The Migraine Trust. https://www.migrainetrust.org/about-migraine/trigger-factors/jaw-tension/
- University of Rochester Medical Center Writing Staff. (n.d.). Bruxism. Bruxism - Health Encyclopedia - University of Rochester Medical Center. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=85&contentid=P00873