Everything in the body is connected. When we have discomfort in one area, it can radiate to another. Dental problems can trigger neck, shoulder, and even back pain.
Muscles from the upper neck and the membrane around the spinal cord encircling the brain travel through lower skull structures (teeth, jawbone) to the sacrum, a triangular-shaped bone at the base of the spine. Any issues anywhere within this interconnected structure will affect different points along the connection.
Bruxism is a common cause of neck and upper back pain and even lower back pain (the spine). Bruxism is a condition where a patient grinds, gnash, or clench their teeth. Bruxism patients may unconsciously clench their teeth when awake (awake Bruxism) or clench or grind them during sleep (sleep bruxism).
How does Bruxism cause back pain?
Bruxism causes back pain because when any muscle in the body goes into a spasm, nearby muscles tighten up to protect the muscle in the spasm.
If the spasm lasts a long time (as spasms from clenching tend to), those nearby muscles also go into spasm, and the chain of muscle spasms propagates. It’s a short distance from the jaw muscles around the back of the neck, so spasms from clenching can quickly spread to the neck and the back during the night.
Lifestyle habits like drinking alcohol, using cigarettes and recreational drugs, and consuming caffeine (more than six cups of coffee daily) may cause Bruxism.
What causes Bruxism?
- Awake Bruxism may be due to emotions such as anxiety, stress, anger, frustration, or tension. Or it may be a coping strategy or a habit during deep concentration.
- Sleep bruxism may be asleep-related chewing activity associated with arousals during sleep.
What are the symptoms of Bruxism?
- Teeth grinding or clenching may be loud enough to wake up your sleep partner.
- Teeth that are flattened, fractured, chipped or loose.
- Worn tooth enamel, exposing deeper layers of your tooth.
- Increased tooth pain or sensitivity.
- Tired or tight jaw muscles or a locked jaw that won’t open or close completely.
- Jaw, neck, or face pain or soreness.
- Pain that feels like an earache, though it’s not a problem with your ear.
- Dull headache starting in the temples.
- Damage from chewing on the inside of your cheek.
- Sleep disruption.
It is possible to stop teeth grinding. Some remedies may work better than others, depending on the underlying cause of your teeth grinding and symptoms.
How to stop Bruxism?
- Mouthguards and splints. Mouthguards are occlusal splints that may be helpful for sleep bruxism. They work by cushioning your teeth and preventing them from grinding against each other while you sleep.
- Reductive coronoplasty. Reductive coronoplasty is a dental procedure that may be used to reshape or level the biting surface of your teeth. It may be effective if crowded, misaligned, or crooked teeth cause your teeth to grind.
- Botox. Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections may reduce pain and the frequency of teeth grinding.
- Biofeedback. Biofeedback is designed to help people become aware of and eliminate a behavior. It can be used to alleviate both sleep and awake Bruxism.
- Stress-reduction techniques. For some people, teeth grinding may be linked to mental health issues like stress, depression, and anxiety. Stress reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, talk therapy, and exercise may reduce Bruxism.
- Tongue and jaw muscle exercises. Tongue and jaw muscle exercises can help you relax the jaw and facial muscles and maintain proper jaw alignment.
Bruxism is a common condition with many possible causes. Treating it early is essential to avoid significant dental complications, neck pain, and spine issues. A dentist and a doctor are good resources for diagnosing and treating Bruxism.