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Migraines From Tooth Grinding and Jaw Clenching

Posted on October 20, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Amit M. Shelat, D.O.
Article written by
Amy Isler, RN

Jaw clenching and teeth grinding, also called bruxism, is a common condition that typically happens during sleep, although bruxism can also occur while you are awake. About 8 percent of adults grind their teeth in their sleep, and bruxism is even more common in children and adolescents.

Many people are unaware that they grind their teeth or clench their jaw until they start noticing symptoms of bruxism including:

  • Jaw pain
  • Neck pain
  • Facial pain
  • Soreness
  • Headaches
  • Earaches
  • Dizzy spells

A MyMigraineTeam member shared their experience with bruxism and headaches: “Due to gritting my teeth, my jaw has been hurting. I wonder if it is contributing to my migraines.” Some research suggests that migraines and bruxism may be related, and other research shows that teeth grinding and jaw clenching may increase your chances of developing morning headaches and tension headaches.

What Is Bruxism?

Bruxism involves repetitive contraction of the jaw muscles (often defined as grinding or clenching) that can occur while you are awake or asleep.

When bruxism occurs during sleep (sleep bruxism), it is considered a sleep disorder and is often associated with other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. Tooth grinding may also be a side effect of antidepressant use.

Bruxism may also be associated with temporomandibular disorders. Bruxism can cause long-term damage to your temporomandibular joint (TMJ), leading to oral health issues such as jaw dysfunction, chronic pain, tooth damage, and tooth loss. As a MyMigraineTeam member who grinds their teeth said, “I have found more recently that my grinding is bad and it has resulted in teeth movement. I had to get a mouth guard.”

Bruxism may be on the rise, too. Recent survey feedback from the American Dental Association found that 60 percent of dentists have seen increasing cases of jaw clenching and grinding in their patients since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, believed to be related to increased emotional stress.

Is Bruxism Causing Your Migraine Headaches?

Although research has not shown a direct link between bruxism and migraine headaches, associations do exist. Issues with the TMJ (including jaw clenching and grinding) may trigger a migraine in some people, especially adolescents. Further research has shown that people who clench or grind their jaw are 60 percent more likely to also develop migraine headaches.

The pain associated with bruxism can easily travel to other places in the head and cause a headache. If it is a severe case, this pain may cause a migraine.

Migraine headaches affect more than 10 percent of the population, including children and adolescents. Migraine symptoms can include a recurrent headache associated with:

  • Throbbing pain
  • Pain located on one or both sides of the head
  • Sensitivity to light, smell, sounds, and stress
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Visual or sensory changes

In determining if your migraine headache is caused by jaw clenching or grinding, dentistry professionals recommend looking out for these common signs and symptoms:

  • Headache that occurs after jaw activity, such as chewing or speaking
  • Clenching your teeth before, during, or after the onset of a headache
  • Jaw pain or restricted jaw movement
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Finding that standard headache care does not relieve symptoms

Treating Bruxism-Related Migraine

If you suspect that your migraine headaches are related to bruxism, it is important to get help from a medical professional to formally evaluate your signs and symptoms. An expert can help confirm bruxism and rule out any other possible causes of your headaches, such as sleep issues, diet issues, and stress.

A treatment plan can be created by either a primary care doctor or a dentist. Treatment may include some of the following therapies:

  • Chiropractic treatment involving massage of the jaw muscles
  • Eliminating chewing gum
  • Botox treatments
  • Occlusal splint guards (night guards)
  • Medication
  • Physical therapy

A MyMigraineTeam member shared, “I grind my teeth constantly at night and it used to cause migraines, but now I’m on Botox and it helps a lot.”

Connect With Others Who Understand

MyMigraineTeam is the social network for people with migraines. More than 72,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their experiences with others who understand life with migraines.

Does teeth grinding or jaw clenching seem to trigger your migraine headaches? Share your experience in the comments below or on MyMigraineTeam.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Amit M. Shelat, D.O. is a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology and the American College of Physicians. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Amy Isler, RN is a registered nurse with over six years of experience as a credentialed school nurse. Learn more about her here.

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