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Does Teeth Clenching Cause Your Morning Headaches?

Author: John E. Dinan, DMD MS

Date: April 8, 2024

Or Is It Something Else….

Is this you?

Every day, you wake up with a pounding headache in your temples. It’s been going on for months. In an attempt to identify what’s causing your headaches, you jump online and come across more than a few web pages that suggest they could be caused by nighttime teeth clenching, also called Night Bruxism.

I’m John Dinan, an Orofacial Pain specialist practicing in the New York City metropolitan area. Orofacial pain is a dental specialty that helps people suffering from unexplained pain in their head, face, or neck.

Does Teeth Clenching Cause Your Morning Headaches?

Identifying the Cause: Teeth Clenching or More?

Morning headaches can indeed be related to nighttime teeth clenching, particularly if your pain is felt in the sides of your head. Here’s why: Your temporalis muscles, which cover the sides of your head up to the edges of your eye sockets, allow your jaw to open and close. When you clench your teeth for hours every night, your temporalis muscles can become very sore, resulting in pain in your temples when you wake up.

Other Contributors to Morning Headaches

Not every morning headache is caused by teeth clenching. There are dozens of conditions that can result in morning headaches. So, it’s essential to rule out other possible causes before scheduling an appointment with an Orofacial Pain specialist.

Does Teeth Clenching Cause Your Morning Headaches?

  • Poor Sleep : Sleep is essential to health, and according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. Sadly, most people simply do not allow themselves enough time for sleep, and this lack of sleep over time can lead to health problems such as cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes, and pain.

    Sleep hygiene best practices include going to sleep at the same time every night, making sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and a comfortable temperature, removing electronic devices from the bedroom such as TVs, computers, and smartphones, avoiding large meals, and drinking caffeine or alcohol before bedtime.

Does Teeth Clenching Cause Your Morning Headaches?

  • Migraine : Migraines are characterized by recurrent, often disabling, headache attacks and affect about 12% of Americans. Many people who get migraines go to bed feeling fine but wake up with a throbbing headache, sensitivity to light and sound, and nausea.If your morning headaches sound like this, you may have a migraine condition. Happily, migraines can be successfully treated by your primary care provider or a neurologist.

Does Teeth Clenching Cause Your Morning Headaches?

  • Alcohol & Caffeine : A typical alcohol hangover is characterized by a wicked headache the next morning. However, caffeine withdrawal symptoms can cause morning headaches, too. Within 24 hours of having your last cup of coffee, your body may start to experience withdrawal symptoms, including headaches upon awakening, as the effects of yesterday morning’s coffee wear off. And, of course, many illicit drugs have withdrawal side effects, including morning headaches.

    If you suspect alcohol, caffeine, or other drugs may be causing your headaches, it’s time to reduce or stop and see if they subside.

Does Teeth Clenching Cause Your Morning Headaches?

  • The ‘Headache Bucket’ Theory : Envision a metaphorical bucket representing your capacity for headaches. Various elements contribute to this ‘headache bucket’ — including poor sleep, migraines, and sleep bruxism — each adding to the overall burden. When your bucket overflows, you experience a headache. It’s important to realize that even if sleep bruxism isn’t the primary issue, it could still play a significant role in amassing the volume that leads to your pain.

Does Teeth Clenching Cause Your Morning Headaches?

Moving Forward: Steps to Alleviate Your Pain :

Let’s confront these causes together. When other potential reasons have been excluded or are being managed, yet the headaches persist upon waking, it’s time to consult an Orofacial Pain specialist. If teeth grinding emerges as a contributory factor, rest assured, there is a suite of effective treatments on hand, ranging from conservative self-care approaches to sophisticated therapeutic interventions.

Does Teeth Clenching Cause Your Morning Headaches?

Taking Action: Don’t Let Headaches Hold Your Mornings Hostage :

The pathway to alleviating your morning headache lies in a proactive approach—explore each cause, seek professional advice, and embrace the treatments that resonate with your needs. Reflect on your sleep habits and substance intake, and consult a specialist for personalized guidance.

Dr. John Dinan, DMD MS is a board-certified Orofacial Pain specialist at New York TMJ & Orofacial Pain.

If you live in the NYC metropolitan area and are suffering from TMJ symptoms, feel free to contact us and make an appointment to see one of our Orofacial Pain specialists.

DISCLAIMER: The advice offered in response to your questions is intended to be informational only and generic in nature. Namely, we in no way offer a definitive diagnosis or specific treatment recommendation for your particular situation. Our intent is solely educational and our responses to your actual questions serve as a springboard to discussion of a variety of dental topics that come up in a day-to-day dental practice. Any advice offered is no substitute for proper evaluation and care by a qualified professional.

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