Bruxism (Teeth Grinding) Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

Learn why people grind their teeth and how to stop the habit

Teeth grinding can turn into a painful habit

You might have noticed someone making strange teethy noises from the mouth, and doing it continually, even during sleep. Bruxism, or ‘teeth grinding’, is a part of movement disorders in which a person continually grinds, gnashes, or clenches their teeth against one another. People with bruxism may grind all of their teeth or only the frontal teeth.

This grinding can cause significant discomfort for those who have this condition in the form of long-term facial pain, and even headaches. Grinding teeth at night can significantly affect sleep and energy levels throughout the day. If you are figuring out how to stop teeth grinding, bruxism can be caused by several factors. Here's your guide on how to control this painful habit for good!


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What are the types of bruxism?

There are two main kinds of bruxism – awake and sleep bruxism. The symptoms and causes of these two types can vary.

Awake bruxism Also termed as diurnal bruxism, awake bruxism takes place while people are conscious. Women more commonly suffer from awake bruxism. Its symptoms tend to worsen throughout the day.

Sleep bruxism Also known as nocturnal bruxism, this type of teeth grinding occurs at night while a person is asleep. Its symptoms intensify through the night and are worse when a person first becomes conscious.

Sleep bruxism is regarded as a sleep-related movement disorder. Individuals with this condition are more prone to other sleep disorders such as snoring or sleep apnea (interrupted breathing during sleep).

Bruxism, when mild, may not necessarily need treatment. However, severe cases of bruxism where the grinding is extremely frequent could cause jaw disorders, teeth chipping, headaches, and other issues. A dentist might recommend a mouth guard for teeth grinding at night.

What are the symptoms of bruxism?

Usually, bruxism is barely troublesome because of its mildness. However, its symptoms can differ among different people depending on the type of bruxism they have and the frequency with which they grind their teeth. You must seek help on how to stop teeth grinding. Here are some signs and symptoms of bruxism:

  • Pain in jaw muscles
  • Chewed patches on tongue or cheeks
  • Damaged teeth, for instance, chipped, cracked, or loose teeth.
  • Interruptions in sleep due to the noise created by grinding
  • Pain in ears
  • Headaches, e.g., tension headaches from grinding during the daytime
  • Pain or soreness in the neck region.
  • Facial pain
  • The sensitivity of teeth to hot or cold items
  • Noise from grinding that disrupts your partner's sleep.

How do specialists diagnose bruxism?

Often times the person who accompanies someone with bruxism while they sleep may be the ones to detect the issue first as they may notice the sound made by the grinding.

Bruxism and jaw clenching is commonly assessed in a dental exam. The dentist is likely to look for any damage to the teeth or cheeks, examine jaw muscle tenderness, and detect possible TMJ. An x-ray may also be needed to confirm whether the core bone tissue has taken any harm.

To properly check the scope of bruxism, dentists may examine the following:

  • Jaw muscle tenderness
  • Dental anomalies including cracked or absent teeth
  • Further damage in the teeth, cheeks, or the underlying bone using an x-ray

What causes bruxism, and what are its risk factors?

According to experts, the causes for teeth grinding are still being researched with no single one being denoted as the ultimate factor. However, there may be various physical, psychological, and genetic factors leading to it.

Awake bruxism may be a result of stress, anxiety, or anger and frustration. It may also be a mere habit to aid with concentration.

Sleep bruxism, on the other hand, may be connected to emotions experienced during the night, or just habitual.

Risk factors

The following factors increase your chances of getting bruxism or teeth grinding habit:

  1. Significant stress or anxiety can both lead to bruxism.
  2. Anger or frustration can also be behind teeth grinding.
  3. Having a restless or aggressive personality can also cause bruxism.
  4. Certain medications or illicit substances may cause bruxism as a side effect.
  5. Family history with bruxism may give bruxism to future generations too.
  6. Certain disorders such as Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, dementia, gastrointestinal disorder, as well as night terrors may result in bruxism.
  7. Several sleep disorders, including sleep apnea or snoring, can also factor in.

What are the effects of bruxism?

As bruxism can take place while a person is asleep, they may remain unaware of their condition. Nocturnal teeth grinding can be a cause of disturbance for sleep partners. This is because the grinding may make noticeable and discomforting sounds. However, soundless bruxism is also a phenomenon that is only highlighted by the dentist when they notice concerning damage to the teeth.

Moreover, grinding teeth at night can lead to pain in the jaws, teeth, ears, head, and face. Individuals suffering from bruxism may also experience soreness in the face and tenderness in the jaw joints. Bruxism can also harm dental restorations and lead to loosened teeth. Just some of the consequences of bruxism are: - Aching jaw, ears, teeth, and face - Flattened and overall deteriorated teeth - Loose teeth - Damaged dental fixtures

Besides this, the temporomandibular joints (the joints on either side of the mouth that attach the lower jaw to the skull) are liable to incur damage due to bruxism. The grinding can also crack or chip teeth. With the enamel wearing away, the layer of dentin beneath may eventually get exposed. This way the teeth may become sensitive.

A person can develop bruxism and jaw clenching habits at any age. Children may start grinding their teeth because of discomfort caused by various illnesses such as colds, allergies, and infections.

In extreme cases, the incessant grinding may damage teeth so severely that only stumps remain. To solve these issues, treatments such as dental bridges, crowns, root canals, partial dentures, implants, or even complete dentures may be used. In addition to cracking and tooth loss, affected jaws and worsened TMD/TMJ may also be a consequence of grinding. Hence, it is important to seek timely help, and starting to use a bruxism mouthguard can help the situation initially.

How to treat bruxism?

You need to consult a specialist on how to stop teeth grinding and open up about the bruxism symptoms. Your dentist may recommend wearing a mouth guard during the night to prevent your teeth from grinding.

In case the main reason for your bruxism is stress, share your bruxism symptoms with the doctor, and ask for stress-reducing strategies. Seeking therapy, taking stress counseling, or initiating a stress program may help lessen the anxiety. Prescriptions may also be pursued for muscle relaxants or anti-stress pills. A bruxism mouth guard will be recommended to contain the habit as well.

If another sleeping disorder is causing bruxism, seeking treatment for it may be of help in reducing the habit. Here are some tips and tricks to decrease teeth grinding to initiate the bruxism treatment:

  • Try to avoid beverages like coffee, colas, chocolate, and tea, that have caffeine in them.
  • Avoid chewing on tough objects such as pens, pencils, walnut shells, and ice.
  • Do not eat chewing gum as it can also form the habit of grinding.
  • Try to abstain from grinding. This can be done by stopping upon noticing as this trains your jaws to relax.
  • Try relaxing your jaw muscles during the night by keeping a washcloth over your cheek for a few moments.
  • Create a healthy sleep hygiene routine in general
  • Have a talk with your sleep partner. If you sleep with someone, ask them to pay heed to your grinding while you are asleep. This tracking may help you in your visits to the dentist.
  • Reserve frequent dental examinations. This will help with an early diagnosis so that treatment can start.

Does teeth grinding occur in babies?

The answer is – yes. Baby grinding teeth is a reality. A lot of babies grow their first teeth after 7 months. As they continue to get more teeth through time, grinding may start occurring. This grinding of teeth in babies may take place due to pain.

Baby grinding teeth might stop on their own without any treatment. Complications are quite unlikely in an infant's teeth grinding. However, kids who are older may form more rigid habits, which should be cautioned against. These teeth grinding habits can harm their adult teeth. For this, a bruxism mouth guard is usually recommended from an earlier stage.

One of the remedies for teeth grinding in babies is the use of teething toys. You can hand your child one to chew on. There are several types, such as natural rubber teethers, ice teethers, silicone teethers, and wood-based teethers, to choose from. Also, refer to a paediatric dentist for proper bruxism treatment.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does decreasing stress aid with bruxism?

Reducing your stress may come in handy while dealing with bruxism. One mouth exercises to reduce facial stress is touching your front teeth with your tongue, with your mouth wide open. Another is saying the letter "n" out loud to keep your top and bottom teeth from meeting, therefore avoiding clenching.

Is wearing a mouth guard for teeth grinding necessary?

A mouth guard for teeth grinding may prove helpful when it comes to bruxism treatment. They cushion your teeth and thereby prevent grinding or clenching. Mouthguards can be bought over the counter or be made to requirements.

With chronic sleep bruxism, specially designed mouth guards may help stop your teeth from grinding while sleeping. These custom-made mouth guards can be adjusted depending on the size of your jaw and your preferred level of thickness.

Do children suffer from teeth grinding too?

Children can experience teeth grinding and jaw clenching, which is certainly bothersome. Baby teeth grinding may also occur. However, treatment can be undertaken to alleviate the symptoms. This may include dental assistance, using protective equipment such as mouthguards, or seeking therapy for anxiety.
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