When the teeth don’t fit together correctly, a condition known as malocclusion, the muscles that move the jaw can be put under extra strain. Many of the muscles in the head and neck are linked to the jaw and so common symptoms of malocclusion are tension headaches (especially first thing in the morning), migraine-type headaches, and pain in the neck and shoulders.
Headaches and neck pains that are related to teeth and the muscles of the jaw joint are actually quite common. That’s not so surprising when the range of functions of the temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ), located where the skull adjoins the jawbone on both sides of the head, is considered; it has to work constantly every day to facilitate chewing, swallowing and talking — obviously when something goes wrong it immediately affects quality of life.
Tension headaches can also be caused by grinding or clenching the teeth, a condition known as bruxism. Often this is a subconscious habit and most people are unaware of it, particularly if it occurs in their sleep.
About a quarter of adults in the UK suffer from bruxism, and the pressure on the teeth during grinding can be 20 times greater than when eating. Eventually, on top of causing headaches, it can overload the teeth and cause them to fracture, loosen or lose enamel, so controlling TMJ issues can prevent serious dental problems from occurring later on.
Treatments might include jaw exercises and splint therapy to help reposition and protect the jaw at night time. In some cases facial aesthetics can also help with this condition.