An In-depth Discussion of the Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment of Bruxism or Teeth Grinding

Have you been waking up with painful jaw muscles or a headache in the morning? You may be experiencing early symptoms of bruxism. The same as any other dental problem, bruxism creates a grave threat to one’s oral and overall health. If not treated early on, it may result in painful and loose teeth. Bruxism may affect the teeth’s surrounding bone and gum tissue in some worst cases.

This article will tackle bruxism or teeth grinding symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment. Learning about bruxism may help patients to better manage this condition, which in turn, will have a positive effect on their oral health. 

What is bruxism or teeth grinding?

Bruxism is the medical term for teeth grinding. It is a condition where patients constantly grind or clench their teeth. It involves rubbing the teeth against each other while making a chewing movement. It can happen while the patient is awake or asleep; consequently, it is referred to as awake bruxism and sleep bruxism.

According to the United Kingdom’s Bruxism Association, at least eight to ten percent of the population has bruxism. Both adults and children are affected by this condition.

What causes bruxism?

There is no definite or identifiable cause for bruxism; however, some studies have shown that it can be associated with several factors depending on the type of bruxism.

Primary bruxism – It happens when bruxism or teeth grinding naturally happens and is not a consequence of any other underlying condition. This can be due to the following reasons:

  • Lifestyle habit – It was found in a study published in The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) that there is an association between bruxism and alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, and drug use. The study claims that smokers and alcoholic drinkers are about two times more likely to have bruxism, while coffee drinkers who consume eight cups of coffee daily are 1.5 more likely.
  • Stress – A study that was published in the National Library of Medicine asserts that there is a connection between stress and bruxism. Stress is a prevalent cause of bruxism among adults.
  • Misaligned bite – Some patients with misaligned bite experience bruxism since their bite is not aligned, or some of their teeth are missing. This can result in irritation in the mouth that may trigger patients to constantly grind or clench.
  • Growing teeth – Bruxism among children is common. At least 40% of the population suffering from bruxism are kids. They usually experience it when their teeth are still growing.

Secondary bruxismIt is a result of another medical condition that may either be of the following:

  • Medications – Bruxism can be considered an effect of any medications such as antidepressants and antipsychotics. A study published in the National Library of Medicine found a connection between selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and bruxism.
  • Mental health conditions – Most likely that people who are experiencing depression and anxiety may suffer from bruxism since these mental health conditions are big contributors to stress.
  • Sleep apnea – It is a condition when a person’s breathing temporarily stops while asleep. This greatly affects the person’s sleeping conditions. A night of disturbed sleep may promote teeth grinding or clenching.
  • Neurological conditions – Several different neurological conditions like Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease may affect the quality of sleep due to constant movement and may lead to bruxism.

What are the signs and symptoms of bruxism?

Since bruxism is an unconscious habit, most patients with bruxism are unaware that they have it. It is only known by the patients when:

  • They wake up with a sore jaw or a headache.
  • Someone notices that they are producing a grinding sound while they are asleep.
  • They discover that their teeth have worn down.
  • When they notice their enamel has been fractured due to grinding.

Again, signs and symptoms of bruxism vary from one patient to another. However, here are some of the common signs most patients experience:

  • Facial muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Abraded or scraped teeth
  • Broken or cracked teeth
  • Sore jaw
  • Worn out teeth enamel
  • Exposed dentin
  • Clicking in the TMJ
  • Tongue indentations
  • Wear facets
  • Dislocation and locking of the jaw
  • Exceedingly sensitive teeth

When you are experiencing any of these signs and symptoms of bruxism, talk to your dentist as soon as possible for proper medication and intervention.

An In-depth Discussion of the Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment of Bruxism or Teeth Grinding

What is the treatment for bruxism?

The most effective treatment for bruxism depends on what causes it. It can be best identified with the help of a dentist. Depending on the severity of your bruxism, your dentist may suggest either of these treatments or a combination of any of the following:

  • Mouthguard or mouth splint – Your dentist may recommend you wear a mouthguard at night during your sleep to absorb the force of grinding or clenching. You can also wear it during the day when you have awake bruxism. The mouthguard will lessen the teeth damage and prevent further dental problems such as diminished enamel and damaged bone and gum tissue.
  • Behavior or lifestyle change – Your dentist may advise you to lessen your tobacco intake and alcohol and caffeine intake. Your dentist may also teach you how to properly rest your tongue, teeth, and lips which alleviates discomfort on the jaw.
  • Biofeedback – This uses an instrument that captures and measures the amount of the mouth and jaw muscle activity. It works by signaling you when too much muscle activity is happening so you can easily change it to normal activity. This is much useful to patients with awake bruxism.

To prevent constant teeth grinding or clenching, patients may also try to:

  • Find ways to relax and lessen stress
  • Improve sleeping patterns to avoid disruption of sleep
  • Try jaw exercises
  • Have regular dental checkups
  • Cutting off alcohol, caffeine, drug, and nicotine intake

It is important to understand what causes your bruxism to have a feasible treatment. Always seek professional help

An In-depth Discussion of the Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment of Bruxism or Teeth Grinding

Why is bruxism harmful?

As mentioned above, bruxism or teeth grinding is a grave threat not just to the patient’s oral health, but also to the overall health. If not treated, it may result to loosen or fractured teeth, and when this happens, teeth bridges, crowns, root canals, implants, and all types of dentures may be necessary.       It can also affect your facial appearance and can cause or even worsen TMD/TMJ conditions.


Bruxism should be taken seriously as it threatens our oral health. Unlike any other dental problem, there is always an intervention needed to address bruxism. It is imperative that people who notice early signs of bruxism talk to their dentist as soon as possible to prevent further complications and damage to the teeth.