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Sleep Bruxism

Q: Mornings are usually my favorite, most productive time of day. But for the last few weeks, I've woken up with a nasty, dull headache. Sometimes the pain extends into my ears, and it can take hours to go away. I thought it might be dust allergies, but I've cleaned my bedroom from top to bottom and I'm still suffering. What's going on?

Dr. Donnica:
You may have a condition called "sleep bruxism," a movement disorder characterized by grinding or clenching your teeth while sleeping. The symptoms include jaw muscle discomfort, a dull headache, earaches, and wear-and-tear of the teeth. If you sleep with someone else, ask him or her if you're making abnormal crunching sounds while you sleep.

First steps for treatment include over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (e.g. ibuprofen or naproxen). Stick to softer breakfast foods like yogurt or oatmeal rather than tough-to-chew choices like bagels or apples. Practicing stress reduction techniques (e.g. biofeedback, massage) and abstaining from evening caffeine consumption may also help.

While you can purchase an over-the-counter mouth guard at your local drugstore to prevent grinding, you should make an appointment with your dentist to evaluate whether you have evidence of dental damage. If so, your dentist may recommend a custom-fitted mouth guard and a muscle relaxant. You may have to consult a sleep specialist if you have other associated sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome.

Created: 12/29/2005  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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