Teeth-Grinding Headaches

Do you experience frequent headaches, dizziness, or pain in your face, neck, jaw, shoulders, or teeth? You could be suffering from temporomandibular disorder (TMD), which occurs when the temporomandibular joint (TMJ, or jaw joint) isn’t functioning properly. (The terms “TMD” and “TMJ” are often used interchangeably by the general population, but TMD is the correct term for the condition.)

What is TMD?

TMD problems caused by arthritis or injury also fall under the TMD umbrella, at least when researchers are categorizing them—but the type of TMD we treat relates to myofascial pain, meaning pain in the jaw joint and muscles that control jaw movement. TMD disorders affect millions of Americans and appear to be more common in women than in men.

What are the symptoms of TMD?

If the jaw joints aren’t working as they should, they may move out of sync, shifting from side to side or twisting. Other TMD symptoms include:

  • Pain, soreness, or tenderness of jaw(s) or jaw joint(s)
  • Aching pain in and around ear(s) without infection present
  • Jaw distress that is more prevalent in mornings or evenings
  • Jaw discomfort when chewing, biting, or yawning
  • Jaw clicking or popping when mouth opens or closes
  • Difficulty opening and closing the mouth
  • Locked or stiff jaw when talking, biting or chewing
  • Sensitive teeth without obvious dental problems

What causes TMD?

TMD can be caused or aggravated by stress—strenuous physical or mental tasks, overuse of the TMJ and jaw muscles, and—most commonly—teeth grinding and clenching the jaw—a medical condition known as bruxism. The American Sleep Association estimates approximately 10% of U.S. adults and as many as 15% of U.S. children—about 30 million people—deal with bruxism daily. Bruxism is more common in people with a family history of the condition and can cause nerve damage and cracked teeth if left untreated.


Dupont Family Dentistry can fabricate a custom nightguard to treat your bruxism. While the most common cause of bruxism is stress and anxiety, teeth grinding can be exacerbated by an abnormal bite, crooked teeth, or even sleep apnea. Coming to Dr. Diehl or Dr. Feasel for a consultation can rule out these other conditions, alleviate TMD symptoms, and help save your teeth.

How is TMD treated?

Every patient is different, so the therapy and treatment Dr. Diehl, Dr. Feasel, and Dr. Ghori suggest will vary depending on the severity of your discomfort. Begin with ways to seek jaw pain relief such as:

  • Moist heat (from a heat pack or hot water bottle wrapped in a warm towel)
  • Ice
  • Soft foods
  • Jaw exercises
  • Relaxation and guided imagery techniques (breathing exercises, yoga, meditation)
  • Sleeping on your side
  • Yawning (use your fist to support your chin, preventing strain on TMJ joint and keeping the jaw from locking open)
  • Relaxing facial muscles by relaxing your lips and keeping your teeth apart

More severe TMD cases could require more intensive treatment like physical therapy, posture training, orthopedic appliance therapy, craniofacial massage, and in the most extreme situations, surgery.

If you have any questions or think you may be suffering from TMD, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Dupont Family Dentistry today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Diehl, Dr. Feasel, and Dr. Ghori. We would love to help you live a more relaxed, pain-free life.