Headache Causes & Treatments

Headache Causes & Treatments

Have you been suffering from headaches, neck aches and jaw aches for years? Feeling the pressure of constant tension headaches? Are you waking with tension or pain and feeling tired?

The solutions to these problems could be as simple as a visit to our Sydney dentists.

Has something simple been overlooked?

Dentists and physicians see many patients suffering from various types of chronic pain including tension headaches and neck aches. Studies have shown that a common factor in migraine and tension headaches and neck aches may be chronic clenching or grinding.

It is now recognised that in 70% of cases clenching or grinding is related to “sleep disordered breathing“, which covers a whole range of conditions during sleep, that means when you are asleep your airway is constricted or blocked and you are not getting enough oxygen, your body is not recovering as it should.

If this is the case then the use of a simple dental orthotic may provide patients with an effective, non–drug treatment of their pain, and improve their general health.

Contact us today to find out more!

What is a headache?

Headaches and neck aches occur when there is tear or damage to a muscle, tendon, ligament or the attachment of those structures to the bone. These are called “soft tissue lesions”.What is the problem?

These “lesions” activate the nerves that cause pain (called nociceptors). This chronic pain can also activate the autonomic nervous system (involuntary part of our nervous system), causing disturbances to vision, balance, sinuses, digestion and many others seemingly unrelated symptoms. Soft tissue lesions are caused by some sort of trauma that may have occurred many years ago which may be either a

  • Major trauma (e.g. car accident, sporting injury, general anaesthetic, a fall or a blow to the body)
  • Minor trauma – (e.g. poor sleep posture,  poor work posture, clenching or grinding of teeth)

The dental connection

If you clench or grind your teeth, your jaw muscles tighten together with muscles at the back of the neck. This tension will prevent those neck muscles from relaxing and the soft tissue lesions from healing. This connection between jaw and neck muscles is often overlooked as a factor when considering tension headaches and neck aches.

Common pain patterns for tension headaches (marked in red) and common sites of soft tissue lesions (marked with x above) associated with this jaw/neck relationship are outlined above.

Assessing sleep quality and airway is central to the analysis of the jaw and neck relationship.

Recognising the connection and identifying contributing factors

People clench or grind their teeth for 3 reasons:

  1. Disturbed sleep patterns  – in order to maintain good health, the importance of restful sleep is central to a healthy lifestyle. The ability to maintain you airway while you sleep is vital to the body’s ability to rest and recuperate.

  2. Stress – the pressures of our everyday social, family and working lives, together with postural and nutritional stresses.

  3. Pain – this can follow a cycle of pain causing clenching of the jaws. The clenching of the jaws perpetuates the soft tissue lesions resulting in the muscular and neurological pain eg. Headaches or neckaches

Assessment and treatment – carefully assessing the problem and treating accordingly:

Muscles, joints and nerves 

Considering the state of the muscles and joints and understanding their impact on the nervous system, both voluntary (peripheral nervous system) and involuntary (autonomic nervous system).


The importance and impact of your sleep. Assessing how best to support the jaw at night, to minimise the harmful effect of clenching and grinding on the muscles of the head and neck, and also to help maintain an open airway at night and have a restful, refreshing night’s sleep.

Teeth and jaw joints

The way the upper and lower teeth fit together (occlusion) and the functioning of the jaw joints (temporomandibular joints, TMJ). The significance of clicking and popping of the jaw joint, together with an assessment of the ability to move the jaw comfortably.

Postural stress

The impact of postural stresses, which may prevent the soft tissue lesions from healing. Looking particularly at sleeping posture, spine, leg length differences, head forward posturing and unstable ankle joints in consultation with other health practitioners.

Nutrition and exercise

The importance of optimal nutrition and sustainable exercise in achieving an environment within your body that is conducive to healing, optimal energy and being pain–free. Poor nutrition and lack of exercise causes the body to become more acidic effecting metabolism, the balance of calcium in the body and chronic inflammation. The balance of proteins, correct fats and carbohydrates is essential in optimising this.

Some examples of many appliances that support the jaw, reduce the strain on the muscles of the head and neck, and may help maintain an open airway contributing to a restful, refreshing and recuperative sleep.

Splints (also known as biteplates, night guards or orthotics) are designed to achieve four goals:

  1. protect the teeth from wear (almost any plastic device will do this)
  2. balance, support and relieve tension in the jaw joints, cranial bones and muscles of the head & neck
  3. improve airway & breathing  at night and facilitate a “good & refreshing night’s sleep”
  4. improve energy flow through the body

Upper Night orthotic

Like the NTI with the additional ability to support the lower jaw at night, reducing clicking of the jaw joints and maintaining your airway.

Lower day orthotic

Supports the jaw joints during the day ,when clicking of the jaw joints and restriction of jaw movement is a problem.

The objective of our treatment

The objective of our treatment in general and the orthotic appliances in particular, is:

  • to reduce the damaging effect of night clenching and grinding of teeth on head, neck and jaw muscles
  • to support the jaw in a more balanced positioned
  • facilitate the healing of soft tissue lesions
  • eliminate chronic pain such as tension headaches, neck aches or jaw ache
  • maintain a better airway & facilitate a more restful, refreshing and recuperative night’s sleep
  • improve your energy and general health.

Contact us to find out more.