Can teeth grinding cause facial pain?

In a word, yes. Bruxism, the medical term for unconscious and habitual teeth grinding can often cause, among other things, facial pain. If you consistently wake up in the morning with a sore or aching jaw, you could be grinding your teeth at night while you sleep. If so, you are not alone, it is estimated that nearly 70 million adults will grind their teeth at some point in their lives.

Because bruxism generally occurs during sleep, it often goes undetected, so it’s possible you would never make the connection between your teeth grinding and your facial pain.  While the exact cause of bruxism is still unclear, the most common trigger appears to be stress. Bruxing, according to medical experts, is a subconscious attempt by the human body to decrease stress levels.  Once the stressful event has passed, the clenching and grinding usually goes away. Unfortunately, stress and teeth grinding can become a vicious cycle – teeth grinding frequently disrupts sleep, lack of sleeps causes stress and anxiety which in turn leads to more teeth grinding and on and on it goes.

250 Pounds of Force in your Mouth

What’s really alarming is just how much damage bruxism can do to your body in a short period of time, all while you are sleeping. Research shows that teeth grinding can occur for as long as 40 minutes for every hour of sleep, and with the exerted force of as much as 250 pounds – that’s enough pressure to crack a walnut, so you can  imagine what it can do to your teeth as well as your temporomandibular joints (TMJ). TMJ are the flexible joints found on each side of your head in front of your ears.  They are the most active joints in your body, responsible for all jaw movements including eating and talking so they get a lot of action. Excessive clenching and grinding puts pressure on these joints which can cause irritation and inflammation and ultimately lead to pain in your jaw, ears and face.

Early Signs of Bruxism

Early treatment is the key to minimizing the damaging effects of bruxism – you just need to know what to look for and if you are in fact grinding your teeth while you sleep, what you can do about it.  Besides waking up with a sore jaw and face pain, another early indicator is extreme tooth sensitivity – you may notice your teeth hurt when you eat or drink something or even when brushing them because the friction of the grinding is causing the enamel to breakdown, exposing the nerves. You may also experience sleep disruption, often times the noise caused by the grinding is so loud it can wake you or partner from a sound sleep.

Secondary Symptoms

Over time, excessive grinding can lead to more serious dental issues including loose teeth, micro-cracks, fractures, tooth loss as well as gum recession, infections and periodontal disease.  And if that’s not bad enough, the vast majority of bruxism sufferers also experience one or more secondary symptoms that can include migraine headaches, vertigo, hearing problems and laryngitis.

Who’s most at Risk for Bruxism?

Bruxism affects men and women, young and old, across all races and socio-economic levels. However, for reasons not fully understood, women tend to grind their teeth more than men.

“Type A” Personality: As mentioned, bruxism is a stress related condition and people with higher levels of stress are more likely to grind their teeth as a stress reliever.

Heredity:  Several studies have shown that there is a strong link between heredity and bruxism, it tends to “run in the family”.

Lifestyle Choices: Prescription medications, tobacco, alcohol and caffeine intake have all been linked to a potential increase in the likelihood as well as the level of intensity of bruxism.

Abnormal Bite: Having an occlusal misalignment which means the teeth do not meet properly when the jaw closes has been linked to an increased likelihood of bruxism.

Treating Bruxism

While there is no medication currently available to treat bruxism, dental experts agree the single most effective treatment is to wear a dental grind guard while sleeping. Dental grind guards unfortunately cannot reverse past damage but are effective in helping to prevent future damage and consequences.  Dental grind guards are removable and generally worn only when needed (i.e., at night or while sleeping).

There are many dental grind guards on the market, however custom-fit products by dentists are expensive and may require multiple visits.  Many off-the-shelf grind guards may not fit properly, can be easily chewed through, or their material composition may be simply uncomfortable to wear. 

Ora-GUARD® dental grind guard has quickly established itself as different from the rest with a revolutionary design that combines a soft, medical grade fit material to cushion the jaws during clenching, coupled with a patented bite plate wedge design specially constructed to slide the lower jaw down and forward, releasing tension on the TMJ muscle, while preventing tooth damage. 

FDA cleared, Ora-GUARD® fits securely in the mouth and is comfortable to wear, allowing for natural breathing while sleeping. An easy, individualized custom-like fit is achieved at home with a simple 60 second microwave or a boil and bite fitting process. Ora-GUARD® dental grind guard provides an immediate, over-the-counter solution that protects the teeth and minimize the painful effects of teeth grinding. Available online at Amazon, Target.com, Walmart.com, and Ora-GUARD.com as well as at key retailers throughout North America including CVS and Walgreens. Ora-GUARD ® is backed by a 6-month, 100% Satisfaction Guarantee.