Bruxism (Teeth Grinding): Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment


What do you understand by teeth grinding?

Bruxism is a condition in which an individual grind, gnash, or clench his or her teeth occasionally. If you have bruxism, you may clench your teeth unknowingly when you’re not sleeping which is called awake bruxism or clench or grind them while sleeping is also known as sleep bruxism.

Sleep bruxism is known as a sleep-related movement disorder and most people who experience this condition are more likely to have other sleep disorders such as pauses in breathing (sleep apnea) and snoring.

However, mild bruxism may not require treatment but in some people, it can be frequent and chronic leading to headaches, jaw disorders, damaged teeth, and other issues. It is advisable for you to check for signs and symptoms of bruxism/also go for regular dental care as you may have sleep bruxism and may not notice it until complications develop.

Read Also: Tooth Decay And Cavities: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment

Why do individuals grind their teeth?

Teeth grinding often occur during sleep and can also be caused by missing or crooked teeth/an abnormal bite. It can also be caused by stress, anxiety, and sleep disorder like sleep apnea.

Are teeth grinding harmful?

Yes, It can. As chronic teeth grinding may lead to loosening, or loss of teeth, and fracturing. Usually, a chronic grinding may cause your teeth to wear to stumps. When this occurs, crowns, bridges, implants, root canals, partial dentures, and even complete dentures may be required. 

What are the symptoms of bruxism?

Its signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Having flattened teeth, chipped/loose, or fractured teeth
  • Severe toothache or sensitivity
  • A feeling of pains around the jaw, neck, face or soreness
  • Having a dull headache that begins in the temples
  • Inability to sleep properly
  • Grinding of your teeth or clenching, this may disrupt your partner from enjoying his or her sleep
  • Having worn tooth enamel, revealing deeper layers of your tooth
  • Experiencing a locked jaw that may not open or close properly, or tight jaw muscles
  • Feeling of pains around your ear but is not actually caused by your ear
  • Damage as a result of chewing on the inside of your cheek

When you can see a doctor

You can see your dentist when you experience any of the above symptoms. Be sure to inform your kid’s next dental appointment when you notice that your child is grinding his or her teeth always.

What are its causes?

Although dentists don’t actually understand what causes bruxism, it may arise as a result of the combination of physical, genetic, and psychological factors.

Sleep bruxism: This may be a sleep-related chewing activity associated with arousals while sleeping.

Awake bruxism: May be associated with emotions like anger, stress, tension/frustration. Or it may be due to a coping strategy or a habit during deep concentration.

What are the risk factors of bruxism?

The following are the possible things that may increase your risk of having bruxism:

A person’s age: This condition is predominant among young children, but eventually disappears by adulthood.

Medications/other substances: Bruxism may be an uncommon adverse effect of some psychiatric drugs, like certain antidepressants. Unhealthy lifestyles like smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages, or using recreational drugs may increase your risk of having bruxism.

Others medical disorders: This condition can be associated with some mental health and medical disorders, like dementia, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), sleep-related disorders such as sleep apnea, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or night terrors.

Stress: A feeling of increased anxiety or stress can bring about teeth grinding. Not-excluding frustration and anger too.

Personality type: An individual with a personality type that is competitive, aggressive or hyperactive can increase your chance of having bruxism.

Family traits: A family having a previous history of bruxism will make one in every member to be susceptible to bruxism.

Some complications associated with bruxism

Although bruxism doesn’t cause serious complications, chronic bruxism may lead to the following:

Tention-type headaches

  • Disorders that are present in the temporomandibular joints (TMJs), found just in front of your ears, which may produce a clicking sound when you open and close your mouth
  • Destroys your teeth, restorations, jaw or crowns
  • Chronic jaw or facial pain

How you can diagnose bruxism

During regular dental checkups, your dentist will likely check for signs and symptoms of bruxism.


If you experience any signs, your dentist will look for changes in your teeth and mouth over the next several appointments to see if the process is progressive and to know the best treatment for you.

Determining its causes

If your dentist suspects that you have bruxism, he or she might want to determine its causes by asking questions about your overall dental health, drugs taken, sleep habits, and daily routines performed.

For effective evaluation of the bruxism, your dentist may look out for:

  • Certain dental abnormalities, like missing or broken teeth
  • Tenderness around your jaw muscles
  • Other damage to your teeth, its underlying bone and the inside of your cheeks, usually performed with the help of X-rays

A dental exam may help identify other disorders that can cause similar jaw or ear pain, like TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders, other dental problems or health conditions.

Referral test

In a situation where your bruxism seems to be related to major sleep issues; your doctor may request you see a sleep medicine specialist. Most sleep medicine specialist can conduct more tests, like a sleep study that will assess your teeth grinding and determine if you have sleep apnea or other sleep disorders.

However, if your teeth grinding is associated with anxiety or other psychological issues, you may be asked to visit a licensed counselor or therapist.


Most at times, treatment isn’t necessary as most kids outgrow bruxism without treatment, and many adults don’t grind or clench their teeth badly enough to request for therapy. But if the issue is severe, your dentist may request you undergo several options such as therapies, certain dental approaches, and medications to prevent more damage to your tooth and alleviate jaw pain or discomfort.

It is advisable for you to speak with your doctor or dentist to identify the best treatment option that may work for you.

Read Also: 3 Tips For Coping With Bruxism Or Teeth Grinding

Dental approaches in the treatment of bruxism

Most doctors may suggest ways to preserve or improve your teeth if you or your kid have bruxism. These methods may not completely stop bruxism, but can only prevent or correct the wear to your teeth. They include:

Dental correction: In extreme cases where tooth wear has led to sensitivity or the inability to chew properly, your dentist may need to reshape the chewing surfaces of your teeth or use a crown to ease the damage.

Use of splints and mouth guards: They are used to keep teeth separated to avoid the damage caused by grinding/clenching. These are designed using hard acrylic or soft materials and fit over your lower or upper teeth.

Using one or more of these approaches may help alleviate bruxism:

Behavior change: An individual with bruxism may be asked to alter his or her behavior by practicing proper jaw and mouth position. You can also inquire from your dentist to show you the best position for your jaw and mouth.

Managing your stress and anxiety level: If you grind your teeth due to stress, you may be able to prevent the problem by learning methods that promote relaxation, like meditation. But if the bruxism is associated with anxiety, you may be asked to visit a licensed counselor or therapist for optimal advice.

Inculcating biofeedback: Where you’re finding it difficult to change your habits, biofeedback may be the best option as it involves using monitoring procedures and equipment to teach you how to control muscle activity in your jaw.

Medications for bruxism

Although medications are not very effective for the treatment of bruxism, more researches are needed to ascertain their effectiveness. The following are medications used for bruxism:

Injection of Botox: This is a form of botulinum toxin that helps people with severe bruxism who do not respond to other treatments.

Muscle relaxants: Here, your doctor may advise you to take a muscle relaxant before going to bed, for a short period of time.

Stress and anxiety medication: Your doctor may suggest you undergo a short-term usage of antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications to aid you to deal with stress or other emotional problems that may be causing your bruxism.

Treatment for associated disorders

It involves the following:

Sleep-related disorders: Arresting sleep-related disorders like sleep apnea may improve sleep bruxism immensely.

Medications: Where an individual develop bruxism as a result of the adverse effect of a drug, your doctor may prescribe a different medication or change your medication completely.

Medical conditions: If an underlying medical condition like GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), is identified as the cause, treating this condition may improve bruxism immensely.

Read Also: Stomach Cancer: New Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment

What are some lifestyle and home remedies for bruxism?

The following lifestyles may help prevent or treat bruxism with ease:

Never consume stimulating substances in the evening: Avoid drinking caffeinated tea or coffee after dinner and never drink alcohol during the evening, as they may worsen your condition more.

Speak to your sleep partner: You can confide in your partner to have him or her check for any grinding or clicking sounds your teeth might make while you’re asleep so you can air it out to your doctor or dentist.

Limit your stress level: Why not listen to cool music, take a warm bath or exercise your body to help relax your mind and also reduce your chance of developing bruxism.

Inculcate good sleep habits: Having a good night rest will not only help you sleep properly but also reduce your risk of having bruxism.


Schedule regular visit to your dentist: Regular dental examination helps identify bruxism as your dentist can identify signs of bruxism in your jaw and mouth during regular visits and exams.

How to prepare for your appointment

You may begin by visiting your dentist or your family doctor. In some cases, you may be referred to a sleep medicine specialist when you call to set up an appointment.

Here is what you can do:

Have detailed relevant medical history, be it any past bruxism-related problems or any information about your medical conditions.

Write down any symptoms you’re experiencing: If you experience some pains, write down when it occurs, such as when you were awake or at the end of the day. Also, include any symptoms that may appear unrelated to the purpose of your appointment.

Make detailed information on all medications taken: You can include all vitamins, herbs, supplements, and over the counter drugs you’ve taken for optimal diagnosis.

Take note of important personal information, like any stresses or recent life challenges.

Ask your dentist or doctor questions where you don’t seem to understand him very well.

The following are some basic questions to ask your doctor for effective treatment:

  • What is actually causing your symptoms?
  • Are there any other possible causes of this condition?
  • What type of test is suitable for you?
  • Does my condition appear temporary or long term?
  • What is the optimal treatment for this condition?
  • Are there alternatives treatments to the primary approach?
  • I have other health challenges. How can I best manage them with ease?
  • Can I visit a specialist or not?
  • Are there generic alternatives to the drugs you are prescribing?
  • Is there any brochure or other printed material that I can have?
  • What websites do you recommend for my condition?

Never hesitate to ask other questions that ring in your brain during your appointment.


Having known the possible causes, symptoms, and treatment for bruxism; be ready to answer questions from your doctor so as to help him or she identify the best treatment for you. You are advised not to take any medications without a prescription from your doctor so as not to worsen your condition.

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