Symptoms, Causes & Management of Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

What is Bruxism?

Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is the involuntary grinding, clenching, or gnashing of teeth. This commonly occurs while asleep, although some people experience it during waking hours. Bruxism has been thought to affect about half the population. Of these cases, only 5% are severely affected. Prolonged teeth grinding can wear away at the outer layer of teeth, called the enamel, and make teeth sensitive and susceptible to further damage.

Why do people develop Bruxism?

Bruxism is typically caused by psychological symptoms, such as stress and anxiety. Illnesses such as Parkinson’s and epilepsy have also been thought to contribute to bruxism.

Other physical factors that may lead to bruxism include dental fillings that are too high, missing or crooked teeth, and the use of recreational drugs.

What are the symptoms of Bruxism?

Bruxism is usually first noticed by a person’s partner, rather than than the subject noticing it on their own. It can even make it hard for a partner to fall asleep, as the noise is similar to stones grinding together.

As bruxism continues throughout the night, other physical symptoms can usually be felt in the mornings. These include headaches, jaw or facial pain, trouble opening the mouth wide, or unexplained broken dental fillings. These symptoms are noticeably worst immediately after waking up, although prolonged unmanaged bruxism may cause lengthened periods of pain.

The physical damage to teeth may also be noticed by your dentist during a usual dental check-up. If this occurs, we may ask you about the presence of other symptoms or other disruptions in your sleeping habits.

How is Bruxism managed?

Not all cases of bruxism need to be treated. In fact, most children with bruxism will simply grow out of it as they develop.

Treatment for bruxism can take several forms. Psychological aid may be provided in the form of counselling to ease stress or anxiety. Relaxation techniques and advice on proper sleep hygiene can also help combat bruxism.

Physical management, such as grinding mouth guards, also help prevent long-term damage, however, mouth guards typically only help with the symptoms without eliminating the grinding completely. In most cases, damaged teeth will also need to be repaired as fillings may have come loose or crowns may have been fractured as a result of continuous stress.

If you know or suspect that you have bruxism, it is best to book an appointment where we can discuss the best treatment or management practices.