Bruxism: Symptoms, causes and the cure to nocturnal teeth grinding

Bruxism is a condition where a person grinds, clenches, and grits his/her teeth unconsciously. Teeth grinding may occur while you’re awake (day bruxism) or during sleep (night bruxism). Night bruxism, also known as nocturnal tooth grinding, is considered a sleep-related movement disorder which may be accompanied by snoring and could also be an indicator of sleep apnea.

Mild or asymptomatic bruxism typically does not require treatment. The more frequent bruxism may cause headaches and facial pain in affected individuals. Severe enough, it can lead to tooth damage or chipping and jaw disorders.

What Are The Signs and Symptoms of Bruxism?

Individuals who suffer from bruxism are often unaware that they have it until serious complications arise. Latest statistics from the American Sleep Association has shown that the prevalence of bruxism disorders in the general population is at 10 percent, while another study revealed that chronic bruxism affects 8-34 percent of adults. Spotting classic bruxism signs and symptoms early on can help prevent the condition from progressing.


People with bruxism may exhibit:

  • Teeth grinding or clenching loud enough to wake your partner
  • Chipped or fractured tooth
  • Worn out tooth enamel
  • Increased tooth sensitivity
  • Pain on the face
  • Tired muscles or soreness around the jaw area
  • A groove on the tongue
  • Formation of boils or cuts on cheek undersides
  • Persistent dull headaches originating from the temple
  • Ear pain without any sign of ear infection

What Causes Night Bruxism?

According to experts, bruxism is caused by psychological and physical factors in a complex interplay, with common etiological factors including:

  • Chronic anxiety, stress or tension
  • Anger or frustration
  • A strategy or habit developed to cope with stressful situations
  • Hyperactive, aggressive, or competitive personality type
  • Indicator of other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea
  • Malocclusion or misalignment of the upper and lower teeth
  • Associated symptom of earache, commonly in children

Though rare, bruxism may result as:

  • a side effect of psychiatric or depression medications. Approximately 24.3 percent of patients who consume antidepressants reportedly develop bruxism, according to a new study published on the Clinical Neuropharmacology journal.
  • a complication of Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease
  • a disorder due to the reflux of acid from the stomach into the esophagus


What Increases The Risks of Developing Bruxism?

Children are commonly afflicted by bruxism, which spontaneously resolves after puberty. The risk is relatively high on individuals with a hyperactive, aggressive or competitive personality. For some people, teeth grinding only occurs in certain sleeping positions. Stress, fear, anger, anxiety and similar emotions tends to aggravate the risk factors. Caffeinated beverages, tobacco, alcohol and drugs such as methamphetamine or Ecstasy do the same.


Bruxism Should Not Be Ignored! Here’s Why.

Despite the high prevalence of bruxism, very few people actually seek medical help. The chances of developing complications become higher as the condition progresses. Poorly managed bruxism usually leads to the following:


  • Chronic facial pain which lowers a person’s productivity
  • Permanent tooth, crown, or jaw damage
  • Recurrent and episodic tension-type headaches that adversely quality of life
  • High risk of developing TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders, which includes symptoms like clicking sounds whenever opening or closing the mouth.


How To Stop Nocturnal Teeth Grinding

Severe cases of bruxism call for appropriate treatment. Pharmacological management backed by various therapies can effectively stop teeth grinding at night.

Behavioral Therapy

Acquired tooth grinding behavior can be controlled with the help of mouth and jaw training. Your dentist can show you the best exercises that support proper mouth and jaw motion towards unlearning the habit.

Stress Management

For conditions brought about by stress, bruxism patients are recommended to seek professional counseling. Meditation and exercise are powerful and effective stress-relieving techniques that might be just what you need to cure teeth grinding.

Biofeedback Training

Biofeedback utilizes the latest equipment and procedures to aid in jaw-muscle activity. It’s primarily designed for people who are struggling with bruxism. This method proves to be exceptionally helpful in controlling habitual clenching and teeth grinding.


Dental Approach

Tooth Preservation – Your dentist can suggest ways to minimize wear and tear of teeth while you’re working on overcoming bruxism.

Dental Correction – When dental problems are causing bruxism, teeth alignment or dental correction procedures can bring about significant results.

Tooth Reshaping – Dentists typically advise reshaping when bruxism creates problems in chewing and at the same time increases tooth sensitivity. In severe cases, braces or oral surgery may be necessary to cure the condition.

Splints and Night Mouth guards – Hard acrylic or soft (silicone-type) splints and mouth guards are ideally used to keep teeth separate. The device may be placed on the upper or lower teeth to prevent them from getting damaged due to clenching and grinding.

How To Stop Teeth Clenching Using Medications

Muscle Relaxants

People diagnosed with acute and severe cases of teeth grinding are recommended to take muscle relaxants before bed time. Not only do prescription medications help relax the jaw, but can ease stress or anxiety in bruxism patients.

Botox Injections

Botox injections are a viable option when teeth grinding gets too severe, becomes non-responsive to treatment, and for patients who exhibit both bruxism and chronic TMJ.

Alternative Medications

When bruxism symptoms arise from the use of medications such as antidepressants, talk to your doctor about an alternative treatment without experiencing teeth grinding as a side effect.


Complete Dental Evaluation

Bruxism that comes with facial pain or recurrent episodes of headaches, whether or not negative changes in your tooth enamel or strength is evident, requires a timely check-up. Visit your dentist’s office to receive professional advice and the right treatment.


What you can do about bruxism…

Bruxism that comes with facial pain or recurrent episodes of headaches, whether or not negative changes in your tooth enamel or strength is evident, requires a timely check-up. Visit your dentist’s office to receive professional advice and the right treatment.

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