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Bruxism & Teeth Grinding

Symptons, Causes & Treatments

Have you been experiencing jaw pain in the morning after waking up? Has someone complained to you about a grinding sound you make when you sleep? If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, then you may have a problem with grinding your teeth, medically known as Bruxism.

We have included below the symptoms and causes of Bruxism, how to prevent it and why it deserves immediate medical attention.

What is Bruxism?

Bruxism is the involuntary and excessive grinding, clenching, and gnashing of teeth. It is considered a parafunctional activity, or a habitual movement that is beyond the teeth’s usual function. It is a common condition that affects many people, up to 31% of the general population. However, most individuals who have Bruxism are usually not aware of its existence.

There are mainly two forms of teeth grinding. First is nocturnal bruxism which occurs during sleep. The second type is called awake bruxism and happens during our active hours.

Signs and Symptoms

Most people don’t easily notice the signs and symptoms of teeth grinding. You might be affected by bruxism and not even know it. Here are some of the common signs and symptoms:

  1. Fractured, worn out, chipped, or loose teeth.
  2. Damaged dental crowns, fillings, and other restorations.
  3. Sore jaws while eating or talking.
  4. Hypersensitive teeth that cause pain when eating or drinking something hot and/or cold.
  5. Headaches, especially around the temples.
  6. Grinding noise. This is usually detected by others during waking hours or partners when asleep.
  7. Forceful jaw clenching.

Except for the grinding noise, these symptoms manifest when you’re awake if you have nocturnal bruxism, and vice versa for awake bruxism.

Possible Causes

It’s yet to be determined if bruxism is a subconscious habit or an involuntary activity. However, it can be a result of physical or psychological reasons.

Crooked or missing teeth, overly-high fillings, diseases related to facial muscles and nerves, and misaligned jaw or a bad bite (malocclusion) are some of the physical causes. People with chronic brain diseases like Parkinson’s and epilepsy are likely to have bruxism as well. During sleep, teeth grinding may result from sudden stomach reflux or mouth dryness.

On the other hand, psychological reasons include anxiety, anger, frustration, and stress for awake bruxism. It can also be associated with some oral habits like nail and cheek biting, pen or pencil chewing, and tongue rolling. Studies suggest that teeth grinding in children is the result of growing teeth and earache.

Psychological reasons for nocturnal bruxism are also different. They can be caused by activities in our central nervous system like sleep arousal, which accounts for 86% of teeth grinding when asleep. Disruption of sleep due to daytime stress can also cause sleep bruxism.

Bruxism prevention

There are things that you can do to help prevent teeth grinding. These include the following:

  • Cut down your caffeine consumption. Caffeine can cause sleeping problems, which lead to teeth grinding.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages. Alcohol consumption is known to increase the likelihood of bruxism.
  • Avoid chewing on pens or any non-food items. If you can, try to avoid chewing gums as well. These can all create a habit of clenching, which also leads to teeth grinding.
  • Make a conscious effort not to grind or clench your teeth. If you notice yourself doing this, try to relax your jaw and muscles.
  • Before going to sleep, help your facial muscles relax by putting a warm cloth against your cheeks.
Importance of teeth grinding treatment

If you are experiencing the symptoms of bruxism, then it’s best for you to get treatment right away. When left untreated for a long time, teeth grinding can lead to even bigger problems like tooth loss, Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMD), and deformation of your face. You need to see your dentist immediately so the cause of your bruxism can be addressed as soon as possible.

Treating bruxism is especially important if it’s caused by more chronic conditions like facial nerve disorders (ex. Bell’s Palsy), Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy. More so, if teeth grinding is a result of deep psychological problems. All of these can affect not just your dental health, but your overall well-being.

What are the treatments?

If your bruxism is due to physical causes such as crooked teeth or overly-high fillings, your dentist can easily correct this. If the problem has escalated to your jaws, temporomandibular joints or facial muscles, then you should schedule therapy sessions. However, if the cause of your teeth grinding is more psychological in nature, it might be worth seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist. Counseling is the best way to battle stress, anxiety, and anger.

Whichever treatment is required for the type of bruxism that you have, a dental guard will help prevent teeth grinding during sleep. You can use it to ensure that your teeth will not be damaged until the root cause of your teeth grinding is addressed.

More importantly, don’t just ignore bruxism. Once you are aware of the symptoms, take immediate action. Teeth grinding should be treated right away so that the root cause can be addressed by experts before they worsen and impact your life negatively.

Helpful Resources

Brushing Your Teeth
What to do in a Dental Emergency
Dental Health for Babies & Toddlers
Bruxism & Teeth Grinding
Causes of Sensitive Teeth

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