Bruxism (Teeth Grinding) - an online guide

In this article our aim is to educate you about bruxism, otherwise know as teeth grinding, what the symptoms are, how its diagnosed and what can be done to treat this condition which affects approximately 8% of the population. You may even be suffering from teeth grinding and not be aware of this as many people grind their teeth during their sleep!

So what is bruxism (Teeth Grinding) ?

As mentioned above bruxism is a condition in which you may grind or clench your teeth more than usual and there are varying degrees of this condition. People with a mild form of bruxism may not experience any symptoms or need treatment whereas more severe cases of bruxism can lead to jaw problems, headaches and wear your teeth down, causing damage to them. Bruxism is usually classified into day time and night time (nocturnal) types and many people that suffer from nocturnal bruxism wouldn’t even know that they are grinding their teeth in their sleep.

What are the symptoms that I should look out for with bruxism (Teeth Grinding)?

Depending on the severity of your teeth grinding the symptoms of bruxism could include a combination of some or all of the following:

  • Grinding your teeth or clenching your teeth at night or during the day - Some people have reported that they have been woken at night with their partner’s teeth grinding habits because it was so loud!
  • Pain full jaw joints – grinding your teeth can cause pain in your jaw joints with a feeling of tightness in the muscles surrounding the jaw. Some people notice that the muscles around their jaw may even grow larger due to them being over worked and stressed. Problems with jaw joints as a result of teeth grinding are sometimes referred to temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ).
  • Headaches and earache – the tightness in the muscles around the jaw joint can sometimes lead to earache and headaches, which are debilitating.
  • Worn teeth – grinding your teeth can cause damage to the enamel and wear it away, which in addition to causing pain and sensitivity issues it also gives your teeth a bad cosmetic appearance. People who suffer from severe bruxism have may have chipped teeth or teeth with a flattened appearance.
  • Tooth pain or sensitivity – because the tooth enamel is worn away with teeth grinding this exposes the inner more sensitive areas of your teeth, which can cause sharp pain and sensitivity to cold drinks and certain foods.
  • Roughness to the tissue of your inner cheek – as a result of teeth grinding people may chew the inside of their cheeks and this roughness on the inner surface could be a sign that you suffer from bruxism.

What causes bruxism (Teeth Grinding) ?

Bruxism is one of those conditions for which there may be many different causes and needs to be assessed on an individual basis. In many cases the dentist or doctor cannot ascertain the exact cause. The following are possible causes for why an individual may suffer from bruxism:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Stress or tension
  • Aggressive personalities or people with an aggressive psychological disorder
  • Athletes who are involved in aggressive sports such as boxing and weightlifting may grind their teeth
  • Teeth grinding can sometimes be a side effect of certain medications for unrelated conditions
  • Changes or problems with your sleep patterns e.g. obstructive sleep aponea
  • As a secondary result of conditions such as Parkinson’s disease
  • Excessive consumption of caffeinated drinks and even alcohol

How is bruxism (Teeth Grinding) diagnosed?

If you visit a dentist regularly they would usually notice a change in your oral health that would indicate that you suffer from bruxism or it may be obvious to you and people around you. Signs that may indicate to your dentist that you suffer from bruxism include:

  • Wear on your teeth at the contact points that meet when you bite
  • Fractured or chipped teeth
  • Increased sensitivity of your teeth
  • Breaking dental restorations such as crowns and veneers
  • Pain in your jaw joint and headaches
  • Tightness in your jaw muscles and joint
  • Wear and tear on the inside surfaces of your cheeks

How is Bruxism (Teeth Grinding) treated?

The treatment very much depends on the cause of bruxism and establishing this is the first step towards treating the condition. It is always best to treat the cause of your condition rather than provide a temporary solution to stop the grinding.

Therapy for stress behavioral disorders -  If you suffer from any anxiety disorders, aggression or excessive amounts of stress then treating the cause of these with counseling or appropriate medications / therapies would be the first point of action.

Splints and mouth guards – many dentists may give you a splint or a mouth guard which will prevent you from grinding your teeth together and that you can wear during the night to stop you grinding your teeth during sleep. Athletes that grind their teeth during sporting activities will benefit from wearing a mouth guard.  There are also many over the counter mouth guards available such as the Nobrux dental guard which is approved by the British Dental Health Foundation.

Dental Treatment – sometimes re-alignment of the way the teeth bite together (occlusion) can help with TMJ problems and pain. This often involves assessment of your bite and some dentists use technology such as the T-scan to diagnose discrepancies in occlusion before carrying out the appropriate restorative work. Also restoring worn teeth with crowns can help to solve problems with sensitivity and cosmetic issues as a result of teeth grinding.

Medications – bruxism very rarely is treated with medication but in certain cases muscle relaxants and botox have been used to treat teeth grinding.

If I think I suffer from bruxism (Teeth Grinding)  what should I do?

If you grind your teeth or think that you may be suffering from teeth grinding you should book an appointment with your doctor or dentist straight away so that they can assess you.