Headaches, tension headaches and neck aches are a real problem in our society. Headaches are not normal.

As Holistic Dentists, we look very closely at tension headaches and neck aches and what connection that has with your oral health.

Addressing the balance of your teeth and jaw is often a great way to treat headaches and relieve tension. We help a lot of people with this problem.

Put quite simply, if you clench and/or grind your teeth, particularly at night, you will more than likely, or most likely, wake up with a tension headache or neck ache. Waking with a headache or neck ache is often very diagnostic of the fact that you’ve been clenching or grinding at night.

Furthermore, waking up with pain in the head, neck and jaw is a clue that night-time clenching and/or grinding may also be preventing problems in neck and shoulder muscles from healing.

If this is the case, the use of a simple, balanced dental orthotic (or night-time plate) may provide patients with an effective, non-drug treatment for their pain and improve their general health.

Headaches are most certainly a normal part of life. One or two a year, yes — anyone can suffer from that.

However, some people suffer from headaches once a month, some once a week and some even once a day. They consider this normal or acceptable — it’s not normal.

Recognising the connection and identifying factors that contribute is an important step towards fixing the problem.

People clench or grind their teeth for several reasons:

  • Sleep disordered breathing – The most common cause of clenching and grinding, this means you are not breathing as well as you should while you are asleep. This not only results in a less restful sleep but also causes you to clench or grind your teeth.
  • Pain – A cycle of pain can cause clenching of the jaws, which perpetuates soft tissue lesions and results in muscular and neurological pain. e.g. headaches or neck aches.
  • Emotional Stress – The pressures of our everyday social, family and working lives, together with postural and nutritional stresses, place strain on the body.
  • Nutritional Stress – Deficiencies or the use of stimulants like caffeine, alcohol or some prescription and recreational drugs can lead to teeth grinding or clenching.

We look at the way your teeth fit together and the balance of your muscles in order to construct an appliance to help balance your teeth and jaw. This relieves tension in the whole system. The main benefits of a night time appliance are:

  • Eliminate or significantly reduce chronic tension headaches, neck aches or jaw pain
  • Improve the airway and facilitate a more restful, refreshing and recuperative night’s sleep
  • Protect wear on your teeth from clenching and grinding

We look at a number of factors when evaluating the problem and possible solutions:

Assessing the soft tissue. We assess the muscles, tendons and ligaments. We look at their impact on the nervous system, both voluntary (peripheral nervous system) and involuntary (autonomic nervous system).

Assessing sleep. Assessing how to best support the jaw at night to minimise the harmful effect of clenching and grinding on the muscles of the head and neck. We also help maintain a larger airway and better breathing at night to ensure a restful, refreshing night’s sleep.

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

Assessing postural stresses. Sleeping on your stomach is the worst position for head, neck, jaw and lower back muscles. We assess the impacts of other postural stresses, like cranial bone strains, spinal instability and malalignment, leg length differences, head forward posture (which may also be a reflection of a poor breathing pattern) and unstable foot mechanics and ankle joints. We work closely in consultation with other health practitioners, chiropractors, osteopaths, physiotherapists, cranio-sacral therapists, massage therapists and podiatrists.

Assessing nutrition and exercise. Certain foods cause the body to become inflamed and, in the presence of soft tissue lesions, this results in musculoskeletal pain. We work with holistic medical practitioners, nutritionists and naturopaths to assess and treat nutritional stress and work with personal trainers and gyms focused on functional movements and sustainable exercise. Adequate nutrition and exercise improves sleep quality and every other health indicator – physical, mental and emotional.

There are a number of different types of splints, used in different situations. After the assessment above is made, we can recommend a type of splint based on your specific needs. Below is a list of examples for interest sake:

Temporary and soft splint. These are removable and generally made of soft material, designed for you to trial using a splint or to resolve an immediate issue.

Upper/Lower flat. These are used either upper or lower jaw and are flat, designed to allow your opposing teeth to ‘slide’ around to assist if you have been clenching and grinding.

Upper/Lower pivotal. Functionally similar to flat splints, however have a smaller section that is in contact with the opposing teeth.

Somnomed. A somnomed splint (or somnodent) is also called a mandibular advancement splint (MAS). These prevent your bottom jaw from dropping back while you are asleep and restricting your airway (which can cause snoring). Therefore this splint is specifically used to help in cases of obstructive sleep apnoea and snoring.

SOMA. This type of splint is used to expand your available airway and can aid in specific situations. It is multi-purpose splint which has orthodontic and myofunctional functions if required.

Commonly Asked Questions

While they’re common, headaches are not normal. If you suffer from headaches, contact us to see how we can help.

Waking with a headache or neck ache is often very diagnostic of the fact that you’ve been clenching or grinding at night. Clenching and grinding can also be a sign of sleep disordered breathing.

One’s bed partner can often hear grinding of teeth in the night.

A dental splint is an oral appliance that is worn while you sleep. A dental splint is also known as a dental orthotic, occlusal splint, dental appliance, night guard, bite plate or mouthguard. These broadly refer to the same device.

If you’re teeth grinding or clenching, or wake up with jaw pain headaches or neck aches, an occlusal splint may be a good treatment option.

There are a number of types of splints that are customised based on your specific circumstances. Each of these appliances, are custom fitted to your mouth. It does not impinge on your tongue. You can open and close your mouth normally as these splints do not lock or fix your jaws together. The appliances should be comfortable and generally take a few nights to get used to.

  • Entirely eliminate or significantly reduce chronic tension headaches, neck aches or jaw pain
  • Balance, support and relieve tension in the jaw joints, cranial bones and muscles of the head & neck
  • Open bite up to create more space for your tongue (increase tongue volume) – this improves airway and breathing throughout sleep
  • Improve energy flow throughout the body, especially helpful during sleep to improve airway & breathing and facilitate a refreshing night’s sleep
  • Protect the teeth from the damaging effects of clenching and grinding
  • Improve your energy and general health

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