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- MayoClinic.com: Tension Headache
- MayoClinic.com: Bruxism/Teeth Grinding
- National Institutes of Health: Bruxism
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The link between teeth and headaches often involves something known as bruxism. This condition is marked by a grinding or clenching of the teeth. Many people are completely unaware that they're doing this, as it's typically an unconscious reaction to stress, anxiety, frustration or anger. After clenching or grinding the teeth for a period of time, the tension created within the jaw and face can lead to a headache 1.
The headache that results from bruxism is usually a tension-type headache, explains MayoClinic.com 12. The pain is mild to moderate in nature and often manifests as tightness around the head. Besides this dull headache, bruxism may also cause jaw or facial pain. You may also notice an increase in tooth sensitivity, worn enamel or even chipped teeth.
While stress, anxiety and other psychological factors contribute to this condition, some physical abnormalities within mouth can play a role. According to the American Dental Association, an abnormal bite, missing teeth or crooked teeth can result in bruxism and subsequent tension-type headaches. Sleep disorder, earaches and medications can also cause you to grind or clench your teeth.
One of the more common treatments is dental appliances. Mouth guards and protective splints can be worn to protect the teeth and relieve some of the tension created by grinding or clenching. Your dentist may also recommend correcting an abnormal bite or realigning a crooked tooth that's causing your to bite down.
Though dental appliances may help protect the teeth and relieve pressure, they don’t always get to the root cause, especially when psychological or emotional components are contributing to this condition. MayoClinic.com recommends taking part in stress management or behavior therapy 1. These approaches to care provide you with the tools to relax, which can combat the grinding or clenching and relieve the tension causing the headaches.
It may also benefit you to consciously relax your jaw throughout the day, suggests the National Institutes of Health 3. Lightly pressing your tongue to the back of your teeth and separating your lower jaw from your upper jaw can help. Any time you become aware of clenching, simply relax.
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