Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

What is Teeth Grinding or Bruxism?

Bruxism, also called teeth grinding, teeth gritting, teeth gnashing, or teeth clenching is the third most widespread sleep disorder, the first two being snoring and sleep talking, in adults as well as in children. This is a universal phenomena experienced by people of every socio-economic level, race and also in both the genders. Around 15-38 percent of children and 5-20 percent of adults indulge in nighttime bruxing. The statistics today, signify that one in every four dental patients suffers from bruxism.

1. Nighttime Bruxism– The involuntary and subconscious habit of teeth clenching or grinding occurs usually during sleep. It is very common and can occur regularly or can sometimes just come and go. A nightly bruxism attack only lasts for about 4-15 seconds, but on average, occurs multiple times throughout the night (25 times each night). Therefore, people in the habit of bruxing may be grinding for over two minutes every night. Sometimes, the grinding is very loud while at other times, it may be quiet.


2. Daytime Bruxism – This occurs usually during the daytime due to anger, anxiety or mental stress. Daytime bruxism is mostly involves clenching and not grinding.

A question that is very frequently asked is, “the difference between clenching and grinding.”

Answer: Clenching mostly involves biting down on your teeth while grinding involves rubbing or sliding teeth across each other. For a detailed explanation, click here.

The possibility of you being a bruxer is quite high. In fact, it is a basic assumption that everyone is in the habit of grinding their teeth (not just metaphorically). About 20 years ago, in the United States, teeth grinding or clenching was called “the disease of the 80s.” Today, around 40 million Americans are in the habit of grinding their teeth. Although this phenomenon is universal, many people are not keen to discuss it or even admit the fact that it’s a serious problem. Many reports about bruxism are mostly from dentists and not from common people who are unaware of this issue. Yet, a very small portion of the entire population of habitual grinders suffers from severe grinding and teeth damage. Usually, this habit disappears itself.

Bruxism Signs and Symptoms

Most people are not aware of the fact that teeth grinding is actually a medical condition which can have serious consequences. Sadly, most bruxers are not aware of having this problem until someone, living close to the, tells them about it. Many symptoms that you experience can signify that you are a habitual bruxer. Some of the main symptoms are:

1. Severe teeth grinding with loud audible noises – Usually, this is the first and the most noticeable sign that a partner, child or some family member is bruxing. It generally occurs during sleep and the person involved in grinding is mostly unaware of it. The grinding can sometimes be loud enough to wake up a partner/spouse. Mostly, a parent or partner comes to know of a sleeper suffering from bruxism than the sleeper himself.

2. Flattened, fractures, chipped or worn teeth – The very first consequence of bruxism is its effect inside the mouth. He teeth can wear off and flatten while the enamel can crack (the tooth enamel is the solid covering on the teeth).


3. Sensitive teeth – this is another issue that is a result of teeth grinding. A person experiences sharp stings or pain in the gums and teeth while consuming any hot or cold solids or liquids. In case you have unusually sensitive teeth, it may be because your tooth enamel may have worn off.


4. Stiffness and pain in facial and jaw muscles – in addition to the pain and damage inside the mouth, your facial and jaw muscles can be affected too. The core reason of this is tension as the muscles of the jaw are constantly in motion and stretch while you grind teeth.


5. Headaches, migraines and earaches – The tension due to teeth grinding action can lead to headaches and earaches. Likewise, according to some researches, muscle tension can also lead to migraine headaches.



6. Damage of cheek tissue – Another serious consequence of this habit is the damage that is caused to the cheek tissue. This usually happens while sleeping and mostly when the head is positioned at an angle sideways.


7. Bite damage to inside cheek area – commonly, teeth grinding can lead to bite damage to the inside of the cheek area as well as cause bite marks on the tongue.


8. TMJ – Teeth grinding can lead to another grave condition known as temporomandibular joint inflammation. This condition is quite painful and is a result of inflammation of the joint that holds the lower jaw securely to the skull. The muscles and tissues nearby may also get inflamed, causing further swelling and pain.


See more information regarding the symptoms of bruxism.

What are the Methods for Diagnosing Bruxism?

Method 1: Sleeping Partner – Bruxism can be diagnosed by your spouse or sleeping partner who is able to hear the loud grinding noise while you sleep.

Method 2: Your Family Dentist – now that you are well-informed regarding the symptoms of bruxism and suspect yourself or are sure of being a bruxism patient, you should first visit your family dentist. The dentist will perform a basic examination on you (to see unequivocal and basic signs of bruxism on your teeth, jaw and mouth) to diagnose whether you have bruxism or not. In some circumstances, the dentist may refer you to a certified sleep specialist or to your personal family doctor for a detailed diagnosis, if he/she feels it is needed.

Method 3: Sleep Labs – Several different problems can arise by using tooth wear. Therefore, in some cases, more detailed tests need to be performed for the diagnosis of bruxism. For such patients, doctors suggest a visit to a sleep lab. At a sleep lab, technicians gauge EMG (electromyography) in order to observe the chewing activity of the jaw muscles. Such tests can demonstrate whether patients are in the habit of teeth grinding during sleep. This is one method to get an accurate diagnosis of bruxism.

Method 4: Biofeedback Headbands – These can be used to check how often a person grinds or clenches during sleep and enables doctors to examine the severity of this sleep disorder in the patient. Because these headbands are not equipped with several wires and electrodes like sleep labs, they are unable to record the exact number of grinding occurrences or their durations like EMG units can. However, both of these are reliable methods for bruxism diagnosis and should be employed to confirm the presence of the disorder on the basis of observation. See further information regarding biofeedback headband.

Causes of Teeth Grinding

Generally, the causes of teeth grinding can be split into two distinct categories; physical and emotional. We have classified and explained the various causes of this disorder below.

Emotional causes:

A major cause of bruxism is stress followed by other related reactions and emotions:

1. Stress & anxiety – These are considered to be the major causes of teeth grinding. Researches show that teeth grinding is a method used by the body to cope with or reduce the tension level the body undergoes. At times, the pace of life is quite fast and a lifestyle like this can have a negative impact on your body in several ways, including your mental health. Research concludes that our body resorts to bruxism in order to alleviate stress. According to some scientists, bruxing is a subconscious effort to reduce stress levels. Studies have also shown that in stressful times (family, health, job-related), bruxism patients increase their grinding and clenching.

2. Unexpressed anger or frustration – A research conducted by the USA-based Mayo clinic discovered that individuals with unexpressed anger or frustration were more prone to nighttime teeth grinding. Expressed and suppressed anger can also cause bruxism. Cases like these can vary from being mild to severe. It is recommended to consult a bruxism professional for help.

3. Discomfort while sleeping – Many studies indicate that experiencing discomfort while sleeping-such as having flu or sleeping on an uncomfortable bed- can also cause teeth grinding.

Physical Causes:

People indulge in habitual teeth grinding due to several physical reasons.

1. New teeth – Growing of new teeth in children can also cause teeth grinding up to the time the bite re-aligns after all the teeth have grown completely. For more information on bruxism in children, click here.


2. Genetic causes – Research indicates that there could be genetic causes to teeth grinding problems. If parents are involved in nighttime teeth clenching and grinding, there is a higher possibility of children doing the same.


3. Medications & medical conditions – Some drugs, like ecstasy, are found to trigger this ailment. Medications like anti-depressants also cause teeth grinding. In addition to that, some medical conditions like dehydration, Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease also contribute as causes of bruxism.


4. Diet and allergies – One of the major causes of this disorder is dehydration. If not treated, it may gradually result in lead to many other disorders like headaches, dry sin and allergies like asthma and rhinitis. People who consume alcohol or smoke are at a high risk of getting dehydrated and hence, getting bruxism. Those who tend to clench and grid their teeth should avoid enormous amounts of fizzy drinks and caffeine. Cigarette smoking, allergies and dietary deficiencies also trigger teeth grinding incidents.

5. Teeth misalignment – Those who have misaligned teeth or an inappropriate bite tend to have a greater possibility of teeth grinding incidences. It is advised to visit an orthodontist in such cases as they will be able to provide you with the perfect solution as a remedy to misaligned teeth.


For more information regarding the causes that lead to teeth grinding incidences, click here.

Bruxism in children

The occurrences of teeth grinding incidences in small children are more frequent. About 38 percent of the children between the ages of 0 and 17 years indulge in teeth grinding for different reasons like pain, teeth misalignment during the development phase, anxiety, stress and illness.

During the teeth development phase, older children and toddlers experience pain which can cause discomfort while sleeping and result in teeth grinding. Even though many children grow out of the habit after these phases have passed, some children may continue to grind. Children with seriously crooked or misaligned teeth are prone to continuous clenching and grinding. Another major reason for persistent teeth grinding is anxiety and stress. It has been observed that many children who have tension headaches will probably show more signs of grinding in comparison to others.

However, USA statistics show that over 50 percent of children in the age range of 3 and 10 years who indulged in the habit of bruxing naturally discontinue by the age of 13. Otherwise, this habit should disappear when stress ends or when teeth get realigned.

Complications and Risk involved in Bruxism

Several complications can arise due to teeth grinding incidences. The main problem is excessive wear and chipping of teeth due to extreme pressure. The severe pressure on teeth can misalign their setting and result in tooth loss. Receding gums is another problem that can increase the risk of losing teeth and extreme grinding can increase the inflammation and pain of TMJ. These risks and complications are a result of untreated bruxism which can not only make chewing and eating difficult, it may even lead to an appetite loss. This can increase health issues, specifically in vulnerable age groups like that of children. Additional factors like severe headaches and neuralgia (facial pain) can also be a result of severe teeth grinding.

For more information regarding bruxism complications and risks, click here.

Treatment for Bruxism

Several treatment alternatives are available for bruxism.

Mouth guards and splints – These are the most common methods of treatment. They are basically devices worn over the set of teeth to prevent damages due to grinding. Mouth guards are available in several varieties, each having slightly distinct attributes. To read more about mouth guards, click here.

Biofeedback – This treatment aims to help patients ‘unlearn’ negative habits like teeth grinding. The device works by giving a stimulus to a person to alert him/her-consciously or cub-consciously- in case they experience any tension in their jaw. To read more about biofeedback, click here| Visit Website.

NTI-TSS – A small device known as The Tension Suppression System (NTI) fixes over the top two incisor teeth. This appliance prevents the upper and lower jaw from coming into contact and therefore, minimizes tension in the muscles.

Taste-based-method – This is a different form of biofeedback. It involves inserting a small pack in the middle of two molars at the back of the mouth. In case the mouth clenches very tightly, the packs rupture and release a bad tasting substance which alerts the individual to the jaw tension.

Stress Therapy – Stress or behavior therapy are treatments that are used for bruxism. Remedies like these help by showing relaxation techniques, and positioning exercises for the mouth and jaw. These not only try to eliminate anxiety, but also help the person in understanding the root cause of the person’s grinding habit. If a person is experiencing severe teeth grinding problems, doctors may recommend muscle relaxants.

For more information regarding bruxism treatments, click here.

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