Bruxism | Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

From time to time, most people probably grind their teeth without it causing any problems or symptoms. Medically, clenching or grinding of teeth is referred to as bruxism. When teeth grinding occurs persistently, it leads to jaw pain, teeth wear, discomfort as well as other oral complications. This article will disclose to you the causes of bruxism, its symptoms, who can be affected by the condition, its treatment and why wearing dentures makes the condition worse.


Causes of Bruxism

Bruxism almost always occurs in conjunction with other factors. Approximately 80 percent of bruxism cases happen subconsciously during sleep. This condition also affects people when they are awake. Here are some of the leading causes of bruxism — anxiety, stress, and other psychological factors. It has been established that anxiety, mental disorders, adverse psychological factors and stress cause 70 percent of sleep bruxism cases. It has also been well documented that job-related stress is the most common factor related to bruxism. In fact, one study reported that shift-workers who suffered from stress because of poor satisfaction with their shift-work schedule were more likely to suffer from bruxism compared to those who were satisfied and less stressed.

Sleep Complications— research has also disclosed that bruxism is frequently found in individuals with existing sleep disorders, for instance snoring, breathing pauses during sleep and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Other sleep complications like hypnagogic hallucinations, sleep paralysis and sleep talking are also frequently reported among most tooth clenching/grinding individuals. Of all the sleep disorders highlighted, OSA appears to be the greatest risk factor because it is linked with an arousal response. Often, OSA is accompanied by different mouth phenomena like gasps, tooth grinding, snoring and mumbling.

Lifestyle Factors—Lifestyle and demographic factors for instance caffeine intake, smoking, higher educational status and heavy alcohol/tobacco consumption are some of the leading causes of bruxism. Also, using psychoactive substances, for instance sleep medications, lead to sleep-related complications which put an individual at risk of bruxism.

Taking Antidepressant Medications—Using antidepressant/antipsychotic drugs, for example, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) is also a leading cause of bruxism.

Telltale Signs and Symptoms of Bruxism

Because bruxism often happens during sleep, a majority of people are not aware that they are affected. However, here are some of the telltale signs and symptoms that will definitely suggest to you that this condition might have hit you.

  • Swollen Jaw on waking up.
  • Tooth Fractures.
  • Excessive tooth wear.
  • Inflammation of the periodontal ligaments of the teeth.
  • Hypersensitive teeth for instance dental pain when drinking cold fluids.
  • A dull and constant headache on waking up.
  • Indentations of the teeth in the tongue.
  • Fatigue, pain and tenderness of the muscles of mastication.
  • Restricted mouth opening
  • A tapping or grinding noise during sleep (occasionally detected by a sleeping partner)

Bruxism Treatment

There are many measures you can take to prevent bruxism. Here are some of them: 

Exercise and Stress Counseling— If stress and anxiety are your leading causes, ask your dentist or doctor about available options to reduce stress. Training, taking stress counseling classes, obtaining a prescription for muscle relaxants and seeing a physical therapist are among some of the treatment options on offer.

Use Mouth Guards— Your dentist can also fit your mouth with a mouthguard to protect your teeth from excessive grinding during sleep. Behavioral therapies can also be effective in managing the symptoms associated with this condition.

Avoid Alcohol— Drinking alcohol intensifies bruxism after consumption. It is, therefore, advisable to shun alcohol drinking at all costs.

Cut Back on Caffeinated Drinks— Avoid drinks and foods that contain caffeine for instance chocolate, colas, and coffee.

Avoid the “Chewing Behavior”— Avoid chewing gum because it allows your muscles of mastication to get more used to clenching, making you more likely to suffer from bruxism. You should also avoid chewing on pens, pencils or anything that is not food.

Avoid medications containing amphetamines— Find the lowest effective dose of drugs used to treat sleeping disorders or ADHD or avoid them altogether.

Relax Your Jaw Muscles— Relax the Muscles of Your Jaw at night by holding a warm washcloth or face towel against your cheek in front of your ear lobe.

Train Yourself Not to Grind/Clench— If you discover that you are affected by bruxism during the day, position the tip of your tongue between your teeth. This practice trains the muscles of your jaw to relax at all times.

Why Does Wearing Dentures Make Bruxism Worse?

Just to refresh your memory, a denture is a removable replacement for missing teeth and the surrounding tissues. The two types of dentures available include partial dentures and complete dentures. Complete dentures are required when no teeth remain while partial dentures are used when some natural teeth are remaining.

In most cases, denture pain affects patients either in the first phase of having a new restoration or after several years of using it without any concerns. The causative factor in many cases is when the denture does not properly fit on your jaw or gum.

Wearing dentures makes bruxism worse because it causes the gum to get irritated due to the pressure and rubbing. Therefore, bruxism leads to what is commonly referred to as denture pain.

Which People Are at Risk?

Bruxism affects not only adults but also children. This condition hits about 15 to 33 percent of children. Bruxism tends to affect children when their baby teeth emerge and when their permanent teeth grow. A majority of children abandon the teeth grinding habit after their two sets of teeth develop entirely.

Most affected children grind their teeth during sleep rather than when they are awake. It has not been fully established why children grind their teeth but possible causes include irregular contact between lower and upper teeth and other medical conditions like psychological factors and nutritional deficiencies.

Grinding of baby teeth rarely causes any complications. However, Bruxism in children can cause jaw pain, wear on teeth and headaches.


Grinding your teeth leads to loosening, fracturing or loss of teeth. Not only does it cause severe teeth damage/loss, but can even change your facial appearance. If you suspect that you may be affected by this condition, consult your doctor or dentist. He or she may examine your jaw and mouth for any symptoms and signs of grinding your teeth.

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