Waking Up With a Headache or Sore Jaw? You May Be Grinding Your Teeth

The importance of getting a good night’s sleep is something we’ve known for a long time. Restorative sleep not only allows our body to rest and recover from all the day’s activities, but also our mind. But the whole experience is far from restorative when you wake up in pain.

We’ve all been there. Perhaps we wake up with a headache, earache, or even facial pain. At first blush we may think it’s nothing major, maybe we just slept wrong. However, if you’re suffering from repeated bouts of jaw pain and headaches when you wake up in the morning, you may be grinding your teeth during the night.

In the blog, Dr. Shirley Zhao and the dental team at Zhao Dental share their insights or teeth grinding, also called bruxism.

Teeth grinding (bruxism) explained

Teeth grinding is a fairly common condition, which affects an estimated 30 to 40 million children and adults in the United States. As its name suggests teeth grinding is gnashing of teeth as well as excessive jaw clenching. Teeth grinding can happen at any time of day, but many people do it unconsciously in their sleep and wake up with facial pain particularly in the jaw as well as with headaches or an earache.

While it’s definitely not fun waking up without adequate sleep and in pain, the effects of teeth grinding go well beyond that. Over time chronic teeth grinding can lead to chipped, damaged, or worn down teeth as well as tooth loss and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome.  

Dentists are experts in the mechanics of the jaw

The good news is that you don’t have to continue to suffer. With their vast knowledge in the mechanics of the jaw and mouth dentists are the medical professionals who are uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat bruxism. Dentists go through rigorous clinical training and education in the muscles of the face and how the jaw operates as well as biomechanics of chewing.  

Tapping into this knowledge base your dentist will do a thorough examination of your teeth looking for signs on excessive wear, which could be caused by teeth grinding or by other factors like abrasive foods, acidic soft drinks, or aggressive brushing. Depending on how severe the case is your dentist will typically monitor the situation over the course of a couple visits to determine if treatment is needed.

Stress and other factors contribute to teeth grinding

Bruxism tends to run in families. Some experts chalk it up to being a nervous habit, which happens more often among competitive Type A personalities. The reality is that a wide range of conditions may cause teeth grinding. While excessive stress seems to be a leading cause of teeth grinding other factors like poor teeth alignment and certain medications, especially antidepressants, such as fluoxetine and paroxetine, may contribute to teeth grinding.

Bruxism can also be associated with medical conditions like mental health and medical conditions like Parkinson's disease, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), dementia, epilepsy, sleep apnea, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Treatment and prevention

If your dentist determines that your symptoms are caused by teeth grinding, he’ll determine whether you need treatment. Many children simply outgrow the habit and some adult bruxism cases may not be deemed severe enough to require treatment. If your teeth grinding condition requires treatment getting to the root of the cause is job #1.

If excessive stress in your life is causing your bruxism your dentist may suggest meditation, yoga, or other relaxation techniques as well as medications to relax you. Dental treatments like splits or mouthguards are also common treatment options. Your dentist can fabricate a custom appliance that will keep your teeth from coming into contact while you sleep, thereby preventing further damage to your teeth as well as to the temporomandibular joint. Treating the associated causes such as sleep disorders will also be important.

If you are waking up with a headache or jaw pain and want to find out if you are suffering from teeth grinding, contact Zhao Dental in Pleasanton and Tracy, California, for a consultation. Our skilled, compassionate dental team will help you on your journey to a restful night sleep and a refreshing morning. Book an appointment online or over the phone today.

You Might Also Enjoy...

7 Most Common Causes of Tooth Pain

Cavities, fractured teeth, and infections are just a few reasons why one of your teeth might be throbbing. Take a moment to learn about these and other causes of tooth pain, and more importantly, which treatments provide the relief you need.

6 Benefits of Dental Implants

Though nothing beats your natural teeth, dental implants come close in both form and function, making them a superior choice for missing teeth in several different ways. Here are six to consider.

How a Root Canal Can Save Your Tooth

Root canals have a reputation that’s truly undeserved. The treatment can actually eliminate pain from a deteriorating tooth and preserve your smile. Here’s how a root canal saves your tooth for the long-term.