Teeth grinding or bruxism is the involuntary grinding or clenching of the teeth and jaw. And, it’s a relatively common phenomenon too – perhaps as much as half of the population bruxes (yes, that’s the verb for it!) occasionally, while a smaller proportion will do it as a habit. There is a number of different bruxism causes that can influence whether a person grinds and clenches their jaw. What are the triggers for bruxism and what determines when a person will experience an episode? Let’s take a look.

Teeth grinding occurs when the teeth are forcibly gnashed or ground against each other. This action causes strain on the jaw muscles and joints. It also puts the teeth and tooth enamel under strain. Long term grinding can be quite destructive, and cause breaks, cracks and fractures to the teeth and enamel.


What Are The Symptoms Of Bruxism?

Because teeth grinding and clenching happens most commonly at night, people who suffer from it generally wouldn’t know about it. But there are some clear signs that can emerge in some patients, pointing to a problem with teeth grinding at night. Some of these may include

  • Headaches, jaw pain and ear pain
  • Sore teeth, especially after waking up
  • Sore or stiff neck, face or temples especially after waking up
  • Teeth that are very sensitive to temperature
  • Tooth enamel that is chipped or cracked
  • Indentations on the tongue from your teeth

If you are grinding your teeth at night in your sleep, chances are that your partner will also wake up in the morning not feeling very well rested, and probably a little tired from the night before. Treating bruxism often benefits both partners who share a bed.

What Causes Bruxism?

There are a number of different bruxism causes, but teeth grinding may not only be caused by just one factor, but it could also be the result of a number of co-contributing factors that make a person grind their teeth.

Understanding and treating the cause can help in treating bruxism faster and more effectively. Some of the possible bruxism causes include:

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  • Biological or genetic reasons: Bruxism has been observed to occur within families.
  • Psychological factors: Certain personality types, such as extremely competitive or aggressive personality types may be more susceptible to bruxism.
  • Lifestyle and external factors like recreational drugs and prescription medication, in particular a type of antidepressant called an SSRI or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor
  • Physical reasons such as ill-fitting restorations, misaligned jaws or problems with a bite
  • Illnesses like epilepsy and Parkinson’s Disease
  • Sleep disorders

Patients who suffer from sleep disorders like sleep apnoea are much more likely to experience bruxism in their sleep too. Bruxism is also more likely to co-present in patients who talk in their sleep, have sleep paralysis, or have very active sleep (kicking and moving around). Often we find that daytime bruxism is caused by lifestyle factors and external aggressors.


Treatment For Teeth Grinding

Not everyone who grinds their teeth needs treatment for it. In the case of children, they tend to outgrow it and because their teeth and jaws are still growing until later in life, they tend not to experience damage from the habit. By contrast, older adults need their teeth to remain strong and healthy and require treatment to keep them intact.


Teeth grinding causes

  • Cracks in the tooth enamel
  • Sensitive and uncomfortable teeth particularly when eating and drinking
  • Wear and tear on the teeth and enamel
  • Strain and pain in the jaw

If you think about it, you can exert a lot of force on your jaws and teeth when you bite and clench, and if you multiply this force by the number of nights in a week, you can see how it can cause long term pain, weakness and damage to the teeth, jaws, joints and even the neck.  


What Are Your Treatment Options?

Early treatment is essential to counter the effects of teeth grinding. Most patients benefit from a multi-faceted approach to treatment and their treatment approach may employ a few different techniques.

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Lifestyle management

Understanding what stressors are affecting you, and where you might need to address some lifestyle issues that are causing bruxism is always a good idea. If medication is causing you to grind our teeth at night perhaps you need a review of the medication you are taking, in order to weigh up the negatives against the positives.

Would meditation or exercises help you to become more mindful and cope with stress better? What other lifestyle modifications could you make, to manage anxiety better?

Review of your sleep habits

Are you getting enough sleep? Are you getting enough quality sleep? Is your sleep environment conducive to a restful night’s sleep?


Muscle relaxants

It may be beneficial to use muscle relaxants or supplement with certain minerals, to provide pain relief from teeth grinding.


Wear a mouthpiece

Wearing a mouthguard can protect your teeth and soft tissues while you sleep. These mouthguards are custom-made for your specific bite, to ensure a perfect fit. They don’t address the cause of bruxism, rather they reinforce your jaw and protect it at night, when you are most likely to clench or grind your teeth, by creating a physical barrier between your jaws.


MAS therapy

When teeth grinding co-presents with sleep apnoea, making use of a mandibular advancement splint can help to keep the airways open and the jaws apart.

Your dentist may also need to do some repair work or restorations to your teeth, if the extent of the damage is significant, in addition to preventing further damage from taking place with the use of a mouthguard. 

Please contact our practice on (03) 9068 5355 if you need help identifying your bruxism causes, or assistance with a treatment plan.

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