Teeth Grinding, Bruxism | Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment


What is Bruxism and does it affect my Sleep?

I’m sure you’ve noticed that most people tend to get the urge to grind their teeth from time to time. Typically, this might not cause harm. But when it becomes a regular routine, then this state results in bruxism. Not only can bruxism affect your sleep, but it will also affect your day time productivity. Keep on reading and you’ll learn more.

Bruxism is generally characterized by excessive teeth grinding and clenching. You will unconsciously clench your teeth and jaw. What’s more, this condition can affect both adults and children. Typically, bruxism can either occur when you are awake or asleep.

Sleep bruxism, also known as a nocturnal bruise, is a condition that causes you to grind or clench your teeth when you are asleep. A considerable number of people grind their teeth during sleep. Therefore, sleep bruxism is considered as a sleep-related disorder. On the other hand, awake bruxism is a condition that leads to clenching or grinding your teeth when you are awake.

There are different causes of this disorder as you will see down below. But it’s a condition that can result in complications in your oral health. Nonetheless, bruxism is treatable so don’t worry.

So how can you tell if you have bruxism? Well, the best way to know if you might have this condition is if you present the symptoms below. However, it’s probably a good idea to visit your dentist for further clarification.



Symptoms of Bruxism

Like any other condition, bruxism is easily detected through some of the symptoms that you present. You should also note that bruxism might be a result of another condition in your body such as snoring or even sleep apnea.

Before visiting your dentist, check if you have any of the symptoms below:

  • Flatted teeth. Also, your teeth might chip off or loosen.
  • Loud teeth grinding sounds when you sleep. This will result in sleepless nights, especially for your partner.
  • Your enamel layer begins to wear out leading to exposure of the deeper layers.
  • An increase in tooth sensitivity or tooth pains. You might experience tooth pains especially when you take cold drinks (Hypersensitive tooth)
  • You might experience pain that seems to originate from your ears. However, the problem might not be in your ears.
  • Constant sleep disruptions.
  • Having brief headaches during the day that seem to start from the temples.
  • Sore jaws, face pains, and neck pains.
  • Muscle ache
  • Lockjaw may occur.
  • A serious burning sensation in your tongue (Glossodynia)

If you don’t treat your bruxism problem, then your state is likely to worsen.


Causes of Bruxism

The reasons behind bruxism are still not very clear. However, research done regarding this shows that there are several contributing factors that lead to teeth grinding. Generally, bruxism is connected to several physicals, genetic and physiological factors which include;

  1. Stress and Anxiety

With the lifestyle habits that we have today, stress is almost inevitable in our daily lives. Think of all the student loans, mortgage payments, family management, work pressure just to mention a few.

This shows that it’s almost impossible to go for a day without being stressed. The problem with this is that stress will in most cases cost you your health. Narrowing down to something specific, stress has proven to be the leading cause of bruxism.

At times of anxiety, anger, and deep concentration you will most likely find yourself grinding your teeth. This condition happens to be even worse in people who have suppressed emotions, have a competitive spirit, are aggressive, or have hurried personalities. That is because the built-up nervous tension increases the risk of teeth grinding.

  1. Teeth Defects

Well, defects in your dentition could also contribute to your teeth grinding issues. For instance, in cases where teeth are crooked, they are not properly lined up or some are missing. The misalignment of teeth is also known as occlusion meaning that your teeth are not properly fitting in.

These teeth defects may be caused by the irregularity of the jaw muscles or the temporomandibular joint. In that case, if these muscles flex at night, they might lead to teeth grinding. An x-ray is needed to determine if this is really the cause of your bruxism.

  1. Age

Teeth grinding is a common defect majorly in kids as compared to adults. Though it’s not clear why this defect affects majorly kids, they overgrow bruxism by their teenage years. Bruxism is a common defect in kids and it mostly happens as a response to pain in the teeth, stress, or anxiety.

Also, bruxism affects kids who have hyperactive disorder. However, you will notice that bruxism is rare in adults aged 65 years and above.

  1. Personality Issues

In most cases, you will notice that your personality is a major contributor to how your body reacts. Also, your personality influences your health conditions. In that, aggressive and hyperactive persons are more likely to experience complications such as teeth grinding.

However, these issues can be rectified by a little bit of yoga and consultations with a psychologist.

  1. Hereditary

Just like most other anatomic conditions, bruxism is also a condition that can be inherited from parents. Meaning that, if your parent has teeth grinding issues, you are likely to experience the same condition later in life.

However, in some cases, you will still find people with bruxism and there is no history of bruxism in their family. That is because there are a lot more causes of bruxism rather than just inheriting it from parents.

  1. Drugs and Substances

The human body can handle a lot of things but there are some substances when consumed, they can have a negative effect on the body. In a result, the body can start reacting by stimulating abnormal conditions such as bruxism.

Such include the intake of alcohol, smoking of cigarettes, and some recreational drugs too. That is why it is advisable you quit using substances if your bruxism kicked off after using these drugs.



Effects of bruxism when not treated

Whether you are awake or asleep, bruxism has can have drastic consequences to your dental and general health. Here are some of the effects of bruxism:

  1. Headaches

Since your mouth was active all night, there’s a high chance that you will wake up with a serious headache. In the end, this will affect your productivity throughout the day.

  1. Earaches

You are likely to develop sharp pains in your ears due to the constant grinding of your teeth. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your ears are part of the problem.

  1. Gums recession

This is when the margin of your gums starts wearing away especially those surrounding your teeth. Eventually, gum recession will end up exposing more tooth or even your tooth root. When this occurs, gaps might form between your teeth allowing the build-up of disease-causing bacteria. If you don’t treat this condition, you will likely have damaged teeth or even tooth loss.


  1. Enamel erosion

Your enamel is typically the first line of defense whenever your teeth are exposed to chemicals and other bodily fluids. That said, bruxism will lead to the rapid wear and tear of this layer hence leaving you defenseless against pathogenic agents. Over time, enamel erosion can lead to other complications such as increased tooth decay.

What’s more, enamel erosion can also cause symptoms such as tooth sensitivity and tooth discoloration. Therefore, you should get treatment as quickly as possible.

  1. Lack of enough rest

Not only do patients with sleep bruxism affect their own sleep but they also affect the sleep pattern of their partners. And trust me, there’s nothing as scary as a person who hasn’t had enough sleep for days. They tend to be more irritable and always in a bad mood.

Did you know that bruxism can easily affect your marriage? Well, now you know. When both you and your partner are always in an irritable mental state, you are bound to get into more arguments than usual. All the more reason to seek help when you realize that you have bruxism. It’s not only for your own good but also for your partner’s peace of mind.

  1. Oversensitive teeth

The hypersensitive tooth is a condition where your teeth are sensitive to cold, heat, or even pressure. Over time bruxism will wear out your enamel. This will expose the nerves in your teeth hence causing the oversensitive nature of them.

As a result, you will always feel uncomfortable when taking cold or hot substances. Sometimes other foodstuffs such as sweets may aggravate the condition.

  1. TMJ (Temporomandibular joint) disorders

This is a jaw disorder that causes a variety of medical problems. The temporomandibular joint connects your lower jaw to your skull. And every time you have a bruxism episode, you are likely to exhaust this joint. This leads to burning pain in the joint.

Problems in this region are likely to worsen your earache and also increase the intensity of your headaches. Therefore, the TMJ disorder will likely increase your pain. That’s because the muscles in this region are generally involved in chewing. The coordination of the muscles in this area also allows you to talk and yawn.

Bruxism results in muscle spasm and the inflammatory reaction especially in the TMJ area hence resulting in this disorder. In most cases, teeth grinding is more or less likely to happen when you are asleep.  So, you will wake up with a burning sensation due to overworking your jaw throughout the night.

If you also clench your jaw continually, then you are also likely to develop TMJ disorder. If you also chewing gum, pencil or pen or your fingernails during the day, then you might develop TMJ disorder sooner or later. All in all, bruxism is a condition that will lead to severe consequences in your jaw.


The early diagnosis of bruxism is very difficult. That is why the doctor or rather a dentist will determine the condition by asking the patient about their history. Also, through examination where the doctor will be on the lookout for signs such as;

  • Tooth wear
  • Enlarged jaw muscles
  • Discomfort in the jaws and much more

Generally, tooth wear could be caused by a couple of factors. Such include the vigorous brushing teeth, soft drinks, abrasives that are found in toothpaste and hard food. However, experienced personnel can always tell the difference between the characteristic pattern found in each one of these causes.

All in all, the most effective way of diagnosing bruxism is through EMG measurements (electromyography). These measurements are used to pick up the electrical signals from the temporalis and masseter muscles during chewing.

Diagnosis in the case of a kid, the dentist may ask the child if they are angry, anxious, frightened before bedtime. This could help to identify what might be causing the stress levels in the child.

Treatment of Bruxism


Treatment of Bruxism

When it comes to the treatment of bruxism, it will majorly depend on the initial cause of this disorder. Although there is no known cure for bruxism, there are lots of available options that can help to relieve the underlying symptoms. Such include;

  1. Mandibular Adjustment Devices (MAD)

You are probably wondering, aren’t MADs devices for snoring patients? Well, MADs have a wide array of uses that anyone who has issues related to the mouth and airways can benefit from. In that case, someone experiencing bruxism could use a mouth guard at night to protect their teeth.

Also, the use of a muscle relaxant in the short term could improve this situation. In this case, the mouth guard could either cover the lower of the upper arc of the teeth. However, you should avoid generic sports guards as they are way bulky and at the same time they tend to be very uncomfortable.

All in all, a mouth guard is not a permanent solution as it could lose its effectiveness over time.

  1. Braces

As discussed earlier, bruxism could also be caused by the misalignment of teeth. In such a case, the dentist or orthodontist could offer to realign the teeth by the use of braces. This could work for patients who have crooked teeth and uneven teeth too.

  1. Self-care Tips

There are a couple of self-care tips that can help to improve the condition of teeth grinding in a patient. Some of them include;

  • Drinking a lot of water
  • Self-massaging the face to ensure jaw muscles are well relaxed
  • Avoiding soft drinks and hard foods
  • Regular dental check-ups and much more

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Author Since:  September 18, 2018


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