Bruxism is also known as teeth grinding or jaw clenching. It is a condition that may lead to teeth damage and sensitivity, headaches, or pain in the jaws and muscles surrounding the jaws.

Bruxism can be classified into two categories, namely sleep and daytime bruxism. Unfortunately, most people who grind their teeth or clench their jaw when they are asleep do not realize it. 

While bruxism may not lead to life-threatening or debilitating outcomes, it may still result in specific issues, such as dental problems. The treatment for bruxism aims to protect your teeth, relieve pain, and prevent you from grinding your teeth. 

What is bruxism? 

Bruxism refers to repetitive jaw muscle activity that involves clenching the jaw or grinding the teeth. This activity may happen when you are awake or asleep, or a combination of both. However, more than 80% of people who have sleep bruxism are not aware that they have this habit. Generally, though, the prevalence of bruxism decreases with age. 

What are the symptoms of bruxism? 

Some symptoms of bruxism include:- 

  • Facial pain or headaches. 
  • Teeth grinding or jaw clenching that is loud enough to wake yourself or your partner up
  • Thinner enamel layer of your teeth, which can lead to increased teeth sensitivity. In severe cases, it may even lead to tooth loss. 
  • Stiffness, discomfort, or pain in the joints of your jaw. You may experience jaw locking when you’re awake. 
  • Earaches
  • Affected appearance of the teeth located at the front of your mouth. They may look flattened or chipped, or they may feel loose.
  • Biting your lips, cheeks, or tongue
Bruxism

Your dentist will check your teeth and ask you some questions about your lifestyle and sleeping habits to determine if you have bruxism. 

What does bruxism pain feel like? 

It often feels like a dull ache beginning at the temples (at the sides of your head). The pain and soreness can also be felt around the jaw and surrounding muscles. Besides that, you may also experience discomfort due to a tight or locked jaw that cannot be opened or closed completely. 

What causes bruxism?

Despite the numerous studies that have investigated the possible causes of bruxism, the findings are still inconclusive. Teeth grinding may be due to a combination of factors, including psychological, physical, and genetic factors. 

If you grind your teeth or clench your jaws when you’re awake, it might be due to feelings of anger, stress, or anxiety. Teeth grinding may be a coping mechanism when faced with such feelings and emotions. 

Sleep bruxism may be more likely linked to sleep disturbances or problems, an abnormal bite (misalignment between upper and lower jaw), or having crooked or missing teeth. 

Occasionally, the use of certain medications or drugs such as antidepressants or antipsychotic drugs may increase your risk of experiencing bruxism. Consumption of alcohol or caffeinated beverages or smoking are other risk factors. In fact, smokers tend to report bruxism twice as often compared to non-smokers. 

Bruxism

Additionally, if you have a family member who has bruxism, you are more likely to have it as well. Studies have confirmed that it does run in the family

Which vitamin deficiency is associated with bruxism? 

Based on the result of a study, researchers discovered that a low intake of calcium and vitamin D deficiency is associated with bruxism. However, more research is warranted to confirm if vitamin D or calcium supplementation is an effective treatment option for bruxism. 

Can bruxism be cured? 

Unfortunately, there is no miracle cure for bruxism that stops it permanently. However, treatment can help in reducing the discomfort and pain associated with teeth grinding and preventing damage to the teeth. 

How do you treat bruxism? 

Your doctor or dentist can guide you in employing a combination of treatment strategies to treat your bruxism. Some of the methods of treating bruxism are as follows. 

Using mouth guards or mouth splints

If you have bruxism, you can use a mouth guard, mouth splint, bite plate, or night guard. They essentially have the same function but may have slightly different appearances or properties. 

These devices are placed over your upper or lower teeth. They can stabilize and take excessive pressure off your jaw, lessen abnormal muscle activity, and alleviate muscle pain. Most importantly, they can protect your teeth from damage due to grinding by creating a physical barrier between your upper and lower teeth. 

Mouth splints are usually made from more rigid plastic and are more durable than mouth guards. Thus, they are usually more expensive as they last longer. However, there is no significant difference between mouth guards and mouth splints in terms of efficacy. 

If you want to use a mouth guard or mouth split, be sure to consult your dentist or healthcare professional beforehand. Bruxism mouth guards or night guards are made of rubber or plastic. Mouthguards are commonly used in sports and can be purchased from the pharmacy, or you can get your dentist to create a customized one that fits perfectly for your teeth. 

Dental corrections and treatment 

Going for dental checkups on a regular basis will ensure that your dentist can fix and correct any damage done to your teeth before it worsens. 

In more severe cases, your dentist may have to make corrective changes to your teeth to fix the damage. This usually happens when teeth grinding causes you to have extremely sensitive teeth or impairs your ability to chew correctly. 

For example, your dentist may have to use dental crowns (caps placed on top of teeth to protect them). Or perhaps he might need to reshape the chewing surfaces of your teeth or fix on false teeth. 

Managing stress or anxiety 

Say you realize that your teeth grinding habits are closely associated with feeling stressed or anxious. In that case, relaxation techniques may help to alleviate those and curb the habit of teeth grinding. 

At home, relaxation techniques such as doing yoga or meditation may aid in relieving stress or anxiety. You may also perform activities that you enjoy to reduce stress, such as listening to music, gardening, or knitting. 

Doing activities that help you relax and wind down before going to bed may help prevent sleep bruxism. For example, doing meditation, deep breathing exercises, or listening to your favorite tunes before heading off to bed. 

Other than that, seeing a trained therapist or counselor may also assist you in managing your anxiety or distress. For example, your therapist may recommend cognitive behavioral therapy, a psycho-social treatment that is proven to be effective in targeting anxiety, depression, and other conditions. 

Lifestyle modifications 

Since excessive alcohol consumption and smoking could be linked to teeth grinding, you may wish to limit your alcohol intake or quit smoking. 

Smoking is not an easy habit to kick, but professional advice and guidance from a smoking cessation expert or healthcare professional can boost your chances of success. 

If your bruxism is a side effect of one of the medications you are currently taking, discuss it with your doctor for a practical solution. Do not stop taking any of your medications without consulting your doctor beforehand. 

Medications 

Medications are generally not required to treat bruxism. Plus, research has yet to confirm that any drugs are effective in treating or preventing bruxism. 

Your doctor or dentist may give you a painkiller such as ibuprofen to help with the pain, ache, or soreness. Other than that, your doctor may prescribe you a muscle relaxant to take before you head off to bed if you grind your teeth during sleep. 

Bottomline: Managing bruxism/teeth grinding 

Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is a condition with no permanent cure. However, several interventions can be carried out to prevent bruxism, alleviate associated pain, or protect the teeth. 

Many children will outgrow bruxism, even without any treatment, intervention, or ‘cure.’ Likewise, most adults do not require treatment as their bruxism is not severe enough to warrant therapy. However, suppose you experience pain or discomfort that is worrying or disrupting your sleep. In that case, it is best to seek the advice of a healthcare professional to put together a personalized treatment plan for you.

Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your own healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.

Editorial References And Fact-Checking
  • Alkhatatbeh, M. J., Hmoud, Z. L., Abdul-Razzak, K. K., & Alem, E. M. (2021). Self-reported sleep bruxism is associated with vitamin D deficiency and low dietary calcium intake: a case-control study. BMC Oral Health, 21(1), 21. doi:10.1186/s12903-020-01349-3
  • NHS. (2020). Teeth Grinding (Bruxism). Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/teeth-grinding/
  • Shetty, S., Pitti, V., Satish Babu, C. L., Surendra Kumar, G. P., & Deepthi, B. C. (2010). Bruxism: a literature review. J Indian Prosthodont Soc, 10(3), 141-148. doi:10.1007/s13191-011-0041-5
  • Yap, A. U., & Chua, A. P. (2016). Sleep bruxism: Current knowledge and contemporary management. J Conserv Dent, 19(5), 383-389. doi:10.4103/0972-0707.190007

Jasmine is a Bachelor of Pharmacy graduate from Monash University. She started off as a freelance writer for various medical companies, startups, and wellness organizations in the health and medical field. Now, she manages HealthPlugged’s entire content team. LinkedIn