The grinding of teeth can cause ear pain

In everyday life we ​​often swallow our anger and we literally take our problems to bed with us. The pent-up emotional pressure is passed on to the muscles of the chewing apparatus unconsciously and they tense up. The result is teeth grinding, in technical terms bruxism. In the morning, teeth and jaws hurt. Incorrectly inserted fillings, prostheses or inlays can still trigger the crunch at night.

If the grinding occurs over a long period of time, the teeth are gradually ground down and the chewing surfaces lose their contour. The jaw joints and bones as well as the muscles in the face and neck are also stressed. In extreme cases, the jaw can even be blocked. Headache or back pain are another consequence.

If fillings or inlays are the cause, we can help. If there are psychological reasons, you should find out about relaxation methods from a suitable specialist or your own family doctor, for example.

A tip: Anger or stress should not be “taken to bed” so that the nights are restful and the teeth stay healthy.

Symptoms of the crunch

It often happens that people do not even notice that they are grinding their teeth while sleeping. With up to 40 kilograms per square centimeter, they expose their teeth to extreme stress. At most, after getting up, they may be surprised that their jaw hurts strangely or that they suffer from symptoms such as headaches or muscle tension in the neck and neck area.

Often it is the partner who first draws the attention of those affected to the nocturnal crunch.

The German Society for Dentistry, Oral and Maxillofacial Medicine (DGZMK) suspects that around one in three people grind their teeth. Studies have shown that the nocturnal grinding phase can last up to three quarters of an hour in some cases.

Causes of the crunch

In general, the phenomenon of teeth grinding seldom occurs alone, but is often linked to sleep apnea (brief interruptions in breathing during sleep), persistent fatigue during the day or non-restful sleep.

Teeth grinding can have two major causes. The first concerns fillings, inlays, bridges, crowns or prostheses that do not (no longer) fit exactly or were not precisely made. The teeth are then not correctly positioned up and against each other. Without wanting to, the entire chewing apparatus "becomes independent" at night and the person concerned begins to grind in order to be able to eliminate the deformity himself.

Emotional pressure is also expressed in the crunch. The psychological stress is transferred to the chewing apparatus and it begins to grind its teeth. The part of our nervous system plays a role here that cannot be directly controlled by humans - the nightly crunch cannot be directly influenced at first.

What are the consequences of the crunch?

When you grind, your jaw and facial muscles become overworked, which can lead to inflammation. The same applies to the joint surfaces and joint capsules of the temporomandibular joint.

When patients notice a clicking sound, the joint disc in the middle of the temporomandibular joint has slipped due to the greater stress. In extreme cases, the jaw may become blocked and the affected person will not be able to open or close their mouth.

Other muscle groups are also excessively stressed. Headache, neck pain, visual disturbances are possible consequences, in addition tinnitus (noises in the ears). The pain can spread to the spine and cause back pain and even permanent postural damage.

In the case of the teeth themselves, the effects can be seen in the fact that the contours are scraped off at an angle and the chewing surfaces of the molars become smoother. This leads to an unfavorable balance of power. Bleeding gums, loosened teeth and noticeably pronounced chewing muscles can appear on crunching info boxes, as can cracks in the outer tooth enamel. Sometimes the gums recede. Tooth enamel is the hardest material in our body, but it cannot withstand the nocturnal attacks in the long term.

Usually it is the superficial areas of the teeth that are abraded, and most patients have the condition stagnant at this stage. In very rare individual cases, the tooth crown is reduced to such an extent that only the neck and root of the tooth remain.

When is treatment necessary?

If you notice that you have been grinding your teeth for a long period of time due to jaw and toothache in the morning or if your partner draws your attention to this, a visit to our dental practice is recommended.

Even if the toothache goes away for some time: still make an appointment. Mental conflicts often cause teeth grinding until the problem is resolved. If a new stressful situation arises, teeth grinding then starts again from time to time.

How can the crunch be treated?

Before further causes are clarified and in order to prevent further crunching, we first make a plastic crunch splint (also: bite splint) for you. Direct contact between the upper and lower row of teeth is avoided in this way and for the time being this is more gentle on the teeth. You place the grinding splint on the lower row of teeth at night.

In order to investigate the cause more precisely, in a second step we can use what is known as a functional analysis to check what the interplay between teeth, gums, masseter muscles, jaw and jaw joints looks like. Among other things, we examine the movements of the lower jaw and palpate the temporomandibular joints with our hands. The chewing muscles are checked for induration and painful areas and the jaw is then x-rayed. So you can see whether the crunch has already affected the jawbone and joint substance. If necessary, we can make an impression of the dentition, which can be used in the laboratory to reveal incorrect loads on the jaw.

If crowns, prostheses, bridges or fillings are responsible for the crunch, their fit should be corrected.

In addition to the bite splint, a "bite splint" can be made to prevent further damage to the teeth. It is also made of plastic, is placed on the lower row of teeth at night and keeps the teeth from grinding, pressing or grinding. It corrects the position of the rows of teeth to one another. If necessary, it can also be worn during the day.

As a rule, you do not get used to grinding or clenching if the causes are psychological in nature. Therefore, it is advisable to learn relaxation techniques or seek further assistance from professionals.

Help with psychological stress

There are several ways to combat the emotional stress and muscle tension that causes teeth grinding.

Massages and heat treatments often help with a physiotherapist. You can also learn relaxation methods to better deal with stress. These include progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobson, autogenic training or yoga. Basically, the following applies to those affected: the calmer and more relaxed you go to bed, the better. An evening stroll or a hot bath can help with this.

If the cause of the teeth grinding cannot be identified, some experts recommend "behavioral self-control". She assumes that you have to feel the pressing and crunching yourself before you can break it off. During the day you learn to pay attention to the relaxed posture of the jaw and the masseter muscles. In this, the teeth of the upper and lower row of teeth do not touch. You should correct yourself according to this example. The more often you do this, the greater the chance of success.

In any case, it is advisable that you investigate the causes of your psychological tension. Often it is temporary stress phases that you are exposed to: exam anxiety, reorientation, relocation or the like. It is usually worthwhile to review your own processing strategies and learn to deal better with these situations.

Benefit of treatment

Pronounced "grinders" often suffer from tooth, jaw or muscle pain all day long. The consequences of the nocturnal crunch are particularly noticeable when speaking or chewing. Additional headache and neck pain impair the ability to perform and concentrate.

The crunch and the discomfort also often disrupt restful sleep, so that the patient can be tired and exhausted during the day.

Treatment alleviates or eliminates these problems. You sleep well again and are productive during the day. Treating mental factors not only helps against teeth grinding, but also increases your general well-being.

In this way, your own dental health can be maintained and the quality of life improved.


Can braces help to correct misalignments and thus relieve teeth grinding?

In many cases, braces can help, as misaligned teeth often lead to teeth grinding. The bit “unconsciously” tries to correct the misalignment itself with the nocturnal crunch. We are happy to advise you in our practice and help you find out the cause of the crunch.

My child grinds their teeth every now and then in their sleep. Does that have to be treated?

If you suspect that your child has been suffering from grinding for a long time because they are exhausted during the day and have toothache, a visit to the dentist is recommended. Stresses to which the chewing apparatus is permanently exposed at a young age can cause considerable problems in adulthood.

Can earache be caused by grinding teeth?

Under certain circumstances, diseases in the tooth or temporomandibular joint problems can radiate into the ear. Grinding teeth can therefore also be the cause of so-called pressure pain in the ear.
I often have headaches in the morning and sometimes my jaw hurts.

How do I know if I'm grinding my teeth at night?

Come to our practice. We check the status of your teeth and from any signs of wear on your teeth, we can tell whether you actually grind your teeth more often at night. If this is the case, we will look for the cause together with you and suggest suitable measures, for example a grinding splint.