Headaches are one of the most common medical complaints among both women and men. While most of us know stress and illness can contribute to a lot of acute and chronic headaches, including migraines, what many people don’t know is that their teeth — or more specifically, their bite — could be to blame. Migraine pain is caused at least in part by an overstimulation of the facial nerves. When we clench or grind out teeth, we strain our jaw muscles and irritate the facial nerves responsible for migraine headaches, as well as tension headaches and other types of chronic head, jaw, and facial pain.
At Rifkin Dental, we help patients with migraines and other types of chronic, debilitating headaches find relief for their symptoms with custom night guards. Night guards help relieve pressure and strain that can lead to headaches and facial pain. Here’s how they work.
Grinding, clenching, and headaches
Most of us grind or clench our teeth from time to time, often in response to stress. In fact, a lot of people grind or clench their teeth — sometimes multiple times a day — and don’t even know it. If they’re lucky, they can “catch” themselves when they’re grinding and work to stop the habit before it causes strain-related irritation. But for others, most of their grinding and clenching goes on during their sleep. And that means there’s no real way to break the habit since they’re not awake to notice it.
Grinding and clenching your teeth may not seem like such a big deal. But the fact is, just biting normally can exert as much as 200 pounds per square inch. Clenching — biting especially hard — can increase that pressure, and when you clench or grind on a repeated basis, well, you can imagine the toll it takes on your jaw muscles (not to mention your teeth). Over time, that repeated pressure and strain can cause the jaw joints to become irritated and inflamed, leading to problems like chronic headaches, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), and significant tooth strain.
Custom night guards: Headache relief and other benefits
Custom night guards help reduce strain caused by clenching and grinding by providing a “cushion” between your upper and lower teeth. The guards we provide at Rifkin Dental are custom made using impressions of your own teeth, which means they fit securely and they’re extremely comfortable to wear while you sleep. During your office visit, we’ll take impressions and send them to a dental lab that specializes in night guard fabrication. (It’s important to note that the techniques used to fabricate night guards for grinding and clenching are different from the methods used to make mouth guards worn during spots and other physical-impact activities. If you own a mouth guard for sports, it’s not intended to be worn at night, nor is it intended to protect against grinding and clenching; you’ll still need a separate night guard to treat headache pain and related symptoms.)
Once your night guard is made, you’ll come in for a final adjustment. Then you’ll wear your guard whenever you sleep — naps, too. When you’re wearing the night guard, the special plastic material acts as a soft cushion between your upper teeth and your lower teeth, so if you bite down, the forces are minimized and the pressure on your jaws, facial muscles, and nerves are reduced. Routine use of your night guard can also reduce your risk for tooth-related problems, like cracks and fractures. Plus, it can also reduce your risk for developing gum recession and periodontal disease, the leading cause of adult tooth loss in the U.S.
Find relief for your chronic headache pain
It’s true, you can buy a “DIY” night guard from the drugstore or online. But an off-the-shelf guard isn’t designed to be as comfortable, durable, or effective as a night guard that’s made especially for you. Plus, by having your night guard professionally made, you and your dentist will be working side by side to provide maximum relief for your symptoms, now and as your needs change in the future. At Rifkin Dental, that's our goal — to work side by side with every patient to find the solutions that work best for their comfort and their optimal oral health, at every stage of life. To learn more about night guards and how they could help you relieve your chronic headache pain, book an appointment online today.