Most people don't associate headaches with tooth problems, but if your head aches when you wake up in the morning your jaws could be the culprit. A common condition affects millions of people and takes its toll on many mouths. Dr. Bryan Dunlap with Dunlap Dental gives his advice on how to fix the problem and waht exactly causes it.
Bruxism: the nightly grind- People often clench their jaws and grind their teeth while they sleep. It's a condition called bruxism, and it results in toothache, earache and headache. Bruxism also causes soreness and tenderness in the jaw--in some cases harming the joints connecting the lower jaw to the skull. It may also loosen teeth, causing damage to dental work and wearing away tooth enamel.
Why we grind in our sleep- While the exact cause of bruxism isn't known, we tend to work out a lot of tension and stress in our sleep that we keep suppressed while awake. Everybody grinds their teeth and clenches their jaws. According to the American Dental Association, stressful situations, existing tooth or jaw problems or trouble sleeping are all contributors.
Breaking up bruxism- Bruxism will show up in your regular dental checkups. Your dentist may already have asked you if you grind your teeth; most people say "no" because they aren't aware of it, since they do it in their sleep. But your teeth will show telltale signs--irregular or premature tooth wear is a common symptom, along with morning jaw pain or headache.
Your dentist can help- If you have bruxism, work with your dentist to alleviate the problem. He or she can fit you with a device, like an NTI or night guard that you wear while asleep; this will relieve the pressure and prevent you from grinding your teeth. Your dentist can also reduce "high spots" in your teeth to prevent grinding. You can also apply a warm washcloth to the side of your face to relax jaw muscles that are sore from clenching. And finding things that relax you, like listening to music or taking a walk, can be helpful in preventing bruxism.