Bruxism (Tooth Grinding) another cause of headaches.

There are two types of bruxism: Nocturnal Bruxism and Diurnal Bruxism.  Nocturnal bruxism occurs during sleep and is the subject of this post.  Diurnal bruxism occurs during the day and or night and is not limited to sleep.  Diurnal bruxism occurs more often in developmentally impaired individuals, as a side effect of medications or in association with medical illnesses. 

Nocturnal bruxism is a common occurrence in healthy developmentally normal children.  14-17% of children grind their teeth during sleep.  No specific gene has been identified as causing bruxism but there appears to be a genetic factor. Children who have a  parent with  a history of bruxism, have a 20-50% chance of developing bruxism. Medications used to treat depression and ADHD have been shown to induce bruxism.

The movements associated with bruxism manifest as rhythmic jaw movements or constant teeth clenching. Movements can lead to enlargement of the cheek muscles, wearing away of teeth enamel, cause jaw and tooth pain and headaches.

Most children "out-grow" bruxism. For many it is a benign condition.  For some, however, bruxism can be a sign of underlying medical conditions. Bruxism occurs in Tourette's syndrome, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, myoclonus, Parkinson's disease, dementia, excessive stress and sleep apnea. Rhythmic jaw movements may be present in people with seizure disorders.

Bruxism is diagnosed by a history of teeth grinding, dental examination and polysomnography.  A physical examination may reveal jaw tenderness and painful temporal mandibular joints.

For most, bruxism is a benign condition and does not require treatment.  When treatment is indicated an occlusal splint, cognitive behavioral therapy, biofeedback and gabapentin may be helpful.

If you or someone you know has bruxism see a qualified health provider for evaluation and treatment.