Chronic symptoms of the head and neck can often be attributed to:
• Headache — the temporalis muscle (it closes and clenches the jaw)
• Sinus pressure and pain — the lateral pterygoid muscles (it moves the jaw side to side and/or forward)
• Neck stiffness and pain — trapezius muscle (it stabilizes the skull during jaw clenching and grinding)
Dental offices have treated and helped more and more people with their headache problems. For years, we assigned all of these names to headaches, like muscle tension headaches, neuralgia, migraine and so on, and it seems that many headache patients share one very common trait- They clench or grind their teeth at night!
Most medical research has shown that headaches, even people with classical migraine headaches, have no physical reason, no vascular problems and no neurological problems; in fact their physician’s exam will give no physical reason for the pain. Many patients have had CAT scans and MRI’s that were negative, and find that drugs really don’t help their problem; instead the medication makes them groggy and “drugged out.”
What we have discovered is that people who can control their nighttime clenching and grinding will get tremendous relief for their headaches and neck aches. Many people do so much unconscious clenching of their jaw muscles that when they wake up, their teeth are sore, their muscles are already tired, and they are set up for the beginning of a headache from the start of the day, if they don’t wake up with one.
One effective treatment utilizes an NTI appliance (short for nocioceptive trigeminal inhibition), a dental device that fits between the upper and lower front teeth. (Detailed information can be gotten from the website at http://www.headacheprevention.com/ ) The simple fact is that this device reduces the intensity of nighttime parafunction by 70 percent immediately, which can explain why so many patients wake up feeling better very quickly.
A traditional dental mouthpiece, or splint, reduces the resistance to side-to-side movement, thereby, reducing the effort and resultant strain to the jaw joint and sinuses (so long as clenching intensity isn’t too intense). However, the same splint also provides an ideal clenching surface, where maximum clenching intensity may increase and/or allow jaw joint problems to perpetuate.
Many patients run the gamut of the medical world’s attempts to control their headaches- with multiple drugs, injections and so on, without ever thinking that the pain might be muscular in origin. But just like back pain is often muscle spasm, the pain we call TMJ, as well as headaches of many sorts are very much caused by overuse of the muscles of closing the jaws.
We would recommend that if you or a loved one has chronic headache problems, that you go to the web site, or give us a call and let us take a look. It can do no harm, and it might very well make a huge difference in your lives!