Teeth clenching is defined by the top and bottom teeth clamping together. Teeth grinding is defined by the jaw moving back and forth while the teeth are clenched. The medical term for either of these conditions is “bruxism”. People who are affected by bruxism are 3 times more likely to develop headaches!
Clenching and grinding is supposed to happen while chewing; the problem arises when you clench and grind involuntarily when not chewing. Some people will find themselves grinding through the day, especially if stressed or frustrated; other people will clench at night while they are sleeping.
Moving your jaw uses several different muscles, the temporalis, masseter, and lateral pterygoids to be specific. Your temporalis lives around the temple region of your head - if you hold your temples and clench your teeth together you can feel this muscle moving! Clenching overuses this muscle and causes them to be tight which can lead to headaches or even earaches!
The masseter and lateral pterygoids control jaw movement vertically and horizontally. Overuse of these muscles can cause jaw pain and aches. You may experience pain in the jaw joint itself in front of your ears or in your cheeks where the muscles live.
Another area that bruxism can affect is the neck. It is very common for neck pain and stiffness to arise from chronic bruxism. If you feel like you have a stiff and sore neck for no reason, it may be coming from the jaw!
Here are some tips on what you can do if you find out that you are a clencher:
- Have good sleeping habits - sleep in a dark room, turn off the TV, limit screen time before bed.
- Mouth guard - wearing a mouth guard helps to cushion the teeth from grinding up on each other. This prevents tooth wear but may not help with the headaches and jaw pain.
- Stress management - by managing your stress better, you may be able to control the bruxism and clench less.
- Chiropractic care! - releasing muscle tension and mobilizing the joints of the jaw and neck help to relieve the symptoms
Here at Rush-Henrietta Family Chiropractic, your favorite Rochester chiropractor, we treat headaches and neck pain from all different causes. Clenching and grinding is only one possible cause of headaches and neck pain and we pride ourselves on being able to differentiate and identify where your symptoms are coming from and address the source!