Can Bruxism (Teeth Grinding) cause headache ?

A person is experiencing severe headache caused by Teeth grinding. There is a strong relation between  Headache and Bruxism.
Unexplained headaches can be caused by teeth grinding.

Are you experiencing headaches without any apparent reason? Then check whether you grind your teeth or not! Why? Headache and Bruxism have a scientifically proven relation with each other. In this article, we untangle this relationship for better understanding of bruxism.

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What Are Headaches ?

People experience headaches now and then. It is the most common ailment experienced worldwide. It is usually described as a band of pressure or pain or both, affecting certain areas of head like the forehead or temples or sometimes the whole head. This pain can be dull and constant or pulsating and intermittent. Pain can be on one side of head or on both sides.

However, a headache is not a disease in itself. It is just a symptom caused by an underlying condition. The majority of these underlying disorders are mild conditions that can be treated with primary care.

Types Of Headaches.

Headaches are generally classified into two types as follows :

A girl is massaging her forehead as she is experiencing tension headaches caused by bruxism.
Tension headaches are caused by bruxism.
  1. Primary headaches: These include migraines, cluster headaches, and tension headaches.
  2. Secondary headaches: These headaches occur after a head injury or as a result of taking too many pills.

Amongst this, tension headaches are the ordinary headaches which we experience in our day to day life.

Now, teeth grinding causes tension headache. But to understand this relation, we need to first understand how tension headaches usually happen.

How Do Tension Headaches Occur ?

Tension headaches can be caused by multiple factors.

The most common cause is stress.

Besides stress, they can also be caused by increased muscular activity. So, when a muscle of the face or near the head region is stretched beyond its capacity or is used constantly for very long duration, it can cause tension headaches.

What Is The Relationship Between Headache And Bruxism ?

Bruxism or teeth grinding causes repeated contraction of jaw muscles.

Clenching of teeth causes muscle to stay in contracted position preventing them from relaxing. This causes headaches.
Muscle fatigue caused by bruxism leads to headaches.

Muscles like the temporalis muscle, which is located in the temple region on both sides of head and the frontalis muscle, which lies in the forehead region, are commonly affected in bruxism. Constant grinding of teeth leads to over-usage of this muscles causing muscle soreness and ultimately tension headaches.

A condition called Lock jaw or Trismus, wherein all the jaw muscles stay in a contracted position can also cause headache and bruxism. In this case, also expect pain in the neck and in the ear.

What Is The Relationship Between Headache And Sleep Bruxism ?

Sleep Bruxism is caused by microarousals from sleep. When you grind your teeth while sleeping, muscles are contracted causing muscular fatigue. This ultimately causes tension headaches.

Patients having sleep bruxism complaint of morning headaches and a non – refreshing sleep.

Do you experience similar symptoms? then you might be having sleep bruxism. Read more about sleep bruxism here.

How To Diagnose?

Well, the first step is to diagnose that you have bruxism. Your family members might hear you grinding your teeth and thus identify your bruxism or your dentist might diagnose you during a routine checkup. Also Other diagnostic test exist, like an EEG.

Image shows patient consulting a doctor regarding morning headaches. If you experience similar headaches, Visit your primary healthcare provider or Dentist for comprehensive diagnosis.
Visit your primary healthcare provider or Dentist for comprehensive diagnosis.

Once it is established that you have bruxism, the next step is to know for sure that your headaches are being caused by your teeth grinding. Nowadays, headbands with sensors to detect temporalis muscle activity are available. You might be prescribed such headbands by your dentist or doctor to confirm the cause of your headache.

How To Get Relief From Bruxism Induced Headaches ?

Firstly, it’s important to understand that bruxism is the underlying cause of headache here. So, it’s extremely important to treat bruxism first.

Meanwhile, to get relief from headache, common pain relieving medicines like aspirin, paracetamol or ibuprofen can be used after consultation with your primary healthcare provider.

Your doctor or dentist may even prescribe you muscle relaxant medication if needed. They may even refer you for Physiotherapy, as it helps to stretch and relax your contracted muscles.

Closing Remarks

Scientific studies show that patients having awake bruxism experience headaches 5 to 17 times more frequently than a normal individual. Thus, bruxism may be the culprit behind your unexplained headaches.
Go through our list of Other symptoms caused by bruxism. If you have any of this in addition to headaches then visit your primary healthcare provider at the earliest possible because pain caused by bruxism worsens with time.

Reference :

Bortoletto, C. C., Salgueiro, M., Valio, R., Fragoso, Y. D., Motta, P. B., Motta, L. J., Kobayashi, F. Y., Fernandes, K., Mesquita-Ferrari, R. A., Deana, A., & Bussadori, S. K. (2017). The relationship between bruxism, sleep quality, and headaches in schoolchildren. Journal of physical therapy science29(11), 1889–1892.

Steiner, T. J., & Fontebasso, M. (2002). Headache. BMJ (Clinical research ed.)325(7369), 881–886.

Published by StephyK

Dentist with years of experience in private dental hospitals.