Migraines, sinus pains and persistent ear aches can often be caused by clenching of the teeth, especially whilst sleeping, when surprisingly the force exerted can often be as much as fifty times that exerted when you are awake. Nocturnal tooth clenching is stress related so as our lives become busier and more stressful these symptoms are becoming more and more common.
When you clench your muscles you get a build-up of a substance called lactic acid. This is the same substance which makes the muscles in your arms and legs feel stiff and uncomfortable when you take much more exercise than your body is accustomed to. The build up of lactic acid in the jaw muscles when you clench or grind your teeth makes the nerve fibres which transmit pain messages to the brain much more sensitive. The result is that sufferers are much more prone to headaches, migraine or occasionally to earaches or disturbed vision.
Research conducted by the United States Federal Drug Agency found that 82% of migraine sufferers could obtain relief by wearing a dental splint overnight. On average the severity of their symptoms decreased by 77%. The treatment was most effective for patients who actually woke up with headaches or who experienced regular headaches in the early morning and in patients who experienced pain behind their eyes.
The splints are designed to separate the teeth at exactly the distance which triggers a reflex to stop the jaw muscles contracting. As a result the build up of lactic acid and with it the frequency of headaches is reduced.
A 39 year old Gillingham man mentioned at a recent check-up that he was suffering from persistant headaches. He was aware of clenching his teeth at night so we made him a headache splint. ‘Immediately the headaches reduced significantly’ he says, ‘and now after a few months they have stopped completely’.
Sheila suffered from headaches about four or five mornings a week. Since being fitted with a headache splint she hardly suffers at all. ‘It is so comfortable to wear that I now hardly notice it at all’ she says. ‘My jaw also feels far more relaxed, so I must have been doing a lot of night jaw clenching!’ If you suffer from regular headaches please let us know so that we can check to see whether tooth clenching or grinding might be a possible cause.
You can also obtain more information on the dental treatment of Migraine from the Migraine Trust who can be contacted at 55-56 Russell Square, London, WC1 4HP. tel 020 7436 1336 or at www.migrainetrust.org