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Understanding headaches and migraines

During sleep we all do strange things, such as snore, kick our legs and even talk. But one of the most common things we do at some time during our lives is grind our teeth. For lots of people, this goes unrecognised. Some people may notice their teeth are wearing down or breaking, but for the unlucky ones, they suffer with headaches and migraines.

Did you ever wonder what these symptoms have in common which all make your life miserable?

They all are controlled and/or moderated by the Trigeminal Nerve System. When the muscles start making your jaw clench and grind your teeth, the Trigeminal Nerve System gets bombarded with signals. If the system is compromised, then it is unable to handle the signals and is misinterpreted. This results in a noxious stimulus to the fluid surrounding the brain, resulting in a pounding headache or migraine.

The Trigeminal Nerve has two divisions:

The Motor root, which sends nerve impulses to the jaw muscles to make them contract; the far more massive Sensory Division (made up of the nerves that bring in information from the periphery).

The Sensory root, which is divided into three distinct segments of sensory reception (thus the term Trigeminal):

  • First Division: Opthalmic: receives sensory input from arteries that surround the brain to around and behind the eyes

  • Second Division: Maxillary: receives sensory input from below the eyes to the upper jaw.

  • Third Division: Mandibular: receives sensory input for the entire lower jaw. All three divisions feed into the Trigeminal Sensory Nucleus.

The current understanding of the nature of the migraine is that it results from a disorder of "sensory modulation", meaning that information received by the Trigeminal Sensory Nucleus is misinterpreted, thereby resulting in either a disproportionate response, or an inappropriate response altogether. For example, during a migraine attack, the simple pressure changes of the fluid that surrounds the brain (resulting from the beating of the heart), is perceived as "pounding".

For migraine suffers, this results in the need to be in a quiet room in the dark in order to get relief by minimising sensory stimulation. The therapeutic goal in migraine prevention is to limit the amount of noxious sensory input (that is, to limit your migraine "triggers") to the Trigeminal Sensory Nucleus.

One way in which we can do this is by reducing the intensity of  tooth grinding and clenching, thereby reducing the amount of signals being sent back to the Trigeminal nerve system. The most clinically effective device that can do this is a clenching inhibitor type splint.

Get in touch with us if you, or someone you know, would like a solution to your headaches and migraines.


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