[updated August 2019]
Bruxism is a common condition that involves chronic grinding or clenching of the teeth. Since people most often do this while they are asleep, the issue may continue for some time before they begin to notice the signs. Common symptoms of bruxism include an aching jaw, overly sensitive teeth, and periodic morning headaches. As common as it is, this condition is not well-understood by many people.
What is Bruxism?
Bruxism, also known as teeth grinding or clenching, affects 25 million Americans. f not resolved, this activity can lead to weakened or cracked teeth, receding gums, damaged jaw joint, headaches, disrupted sleep and more. Occasional bruxism may not be harmful but when it occurs regularly, it may be associated with moderate to severe dental damage, facial pain, and disturbed sleep.
Myths About Bruxism or Teeth Grinding / Clenching
Here are some common misconceptions about bruxism:
Bruxism is not a serious health concern
While teeth grinding might not seem dangerous, its long-term effects can be extremely damaging to your health. If it isn’t treated, bruxism can eventually wear down your teeth to the point that they fall out, which can lead to bone loss and bacterial infections. It can lead to trouble opening and closing your jaw, or even a misaligned bite. Over time, bruxism can even raise your chances of developing hearing loss. If you suspect that you are grinding your teeth, it’s important to have the problem dealt with right away.
Bruxism is only an issue for adults
In fact, people of any age can develop bruxism. Teeth grinding is a problem for children, who are most likely to grind or clench their teeth while they are asleep. Bruxism in children is most common when their teeth are coming in; after that, it usually ends. If your child is still grinding his or her teeth, however, schedule an appointment with your dentist.
Bruxism will go away on its own
While bruxism sometimes resolves itself on its own, the condition usually requires professional treatment. In most cases, there is an underlying cause of the teeth grinding that needs to be diagnosed and treated. For example, obstructive sleep apnea is often one of the causes of chronic teeth grinding. Once your sleep apnea is being effectively treated, your bruxism may stop.
Could You Have Bruxism?
Do you ever wake up with a sore jaw? If so, it could be a sign that you’re grinding your teeth while you sleep. Chronic teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, can be caused by a number of things, including sleep disorders, anxiety, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.
Other signs of bruxism include persistent morning headaches, earaches, teeth that feel loose, and cracked teeth. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your dentist right away for an appointment. To learn how bruxism is treated, watch this video from the American Dental Association.
Possible Causes of Teeth Grinding
Grinding your teeth is an awful habit that’s bad for your oral health, and yet some people do it without noticing. Some people who suffer from bruxism only grind their teeth in their sleep, and their partners may be the only ones who notice. Before you start researching teeth grinding you might want to think about why you might have started grinding your teeth in the first place.
People grind their teeth for different reasons, and the issue could be related to a number of external factors such as
- age (it’s common among young children but usually goes away by adulthood)
- personality types that are aggressive, competitive or hyperactive can increase risks of bruxism
- medications and other substances
- certain medical disorders and mental health disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia, GERD, epilepsy
Many people grind their teeth due to stress, and this typically occurs during the waking state. If stress makes you grind your teeth, consider solutions like meditation, yoga, or exercise to alleviate your symptoms.
Other people grind their teeth because they have a malocclusion or bad bite, in which case the dentist would be the one to turn to. You should also talk to your dentist if you have sleep apnea, as this condition can cause you to grind your teeth in your sleep. Your dentist can fit you with a mouthguard to treat this problem.
Treatment for Bruxism
Treatment for bruxism can depend on your symptoms or the underlying cause. Contact a dentist who specializes in bruxism to schedule an appointment to diagnose the cause of your bruxism and to create a treatment plan.
About the Author – Dr. Thuy Nguyen, DDS
Dr. Thuy Nguyen DDS in Tukwila, WA holds a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and received a Doctorate of Dental Surgery from the University of Washington. In 2011, she also completed the Progressive Orthodontic Program. She is known for her fine work and a friendly and caring attitude. Her enthusiasm for dentistry is contagious, as she designs and improves smile after smile. Dr. Nguyen is bilingual in English and Vietnamese. She maintains memberships to the Seattle King County Dental Association, The Washington State Dental Association, and The American Dental Association.
What is Bruxism? SomnoMed. https://somnomed.com/en/patients/what-is-bruxism/