Bruxism Symptoms And How You Can Spot Them

Bruxism is the habitual grinding of teeth or clenching of jaws, which usually occurs at an unintentional and unconscious level. It can occur either when the person is awake or when he is asleep. In fact, it is seen most individuals (irrespective of their age) at some point of time in their lives. Bruxism symptoms vary depending upon the cause, duration, and the severity of the condition. One person who grinds his teeth might experience no symptoms at all, while another person with the same condition might experience a wide range of symptoms.

bruxism symptoms

Regular visits to the dentist can alert you to bruxism symptoms in their early stages.

A Few Common Bruxism Symptoms

If you have this condition, the bruxism symptoms may be noticed by:

  • Your partner or whoever sleeps next to you often, as the sound you make while grinding your teeth could be loud enough to wake that person
  • Your dentist, when you visit him for dental checkups

Here are some common bruxism symptoms, many of which may be revealed when your dentist examines your teeth.

  • Teeth that are worn down, flattened, fractured, or chipped
  • Worn dental enamel (outermost layer of the teeth), exposing deeper layers of your teeth
  • Jaw pain or tightness in your jaw muscles, typically on waking up in the morning
  • Swollen or receding gums
  • One or more shaky teeth, which you may end up losing (only if bruxism is severe and of a prolonged duration)
  • Cheek bite i.e. damage caused when you chew on the inside of your cheek
  • Indentations/markings of your teeth visible on your tongue
  • Increased sensitivity of your teeth to hot, cold, and sweet foods
  • Difficulty in opening your mouth
  • Pain while chewing food
  • Earache, which occurs due to the contractions of the jaw muscles during the of teeth. This symptom is related to bruxism, especially when the doctor rules out any problem with your ear
  • A dull and constant headache
  • Unceasing facial pain
  • Stiffness in your neck and shoulders
  • Elevated levels of anxiety, stress, and tension
  • A depressed state of mind

Grinding your teeth puts pressure on the muscles, tissues, and other structures of the oral cavity around your jaw. When this continues for an extended period of time, it can cause temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems (such as clicking or popping sounds while opening the jaws or while chewing, and difficulties in opening the mouth fully).

symptoms of bruxism

Advanced symptoms of bruxism include continued facial pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulders.

Bruxism Symptoms – Long Term Effects

If bruxism goes undiagnosed and untreated for a long period of time, it can drastically change a person’s appearance in the following ways.

  • As the teeth wear out, they become shorter.
  • When the mouth is closed, the upper and lower jaws are nearer than they used to be, and so are the nose and the chin.
  • The skin around the mouth may curl around the lips, causing the lips to seemingly disappear.
  • The person begins to appear much older than he actually is.

Bruxism, even when it becomes an established pattern, does not pose danger to life. At the outset, bruxism symptoms are often inconspicuous. As a result, they are easily overlooked by patients or by parents (when bruxism occurs in a child). When this happens, bruxism progresses to advanced stages and begins affecting the entire dental structure. Regrettably, this delay in seeking treatment may have already caused irrevocable damage. To ensure the timely diagnosis of bruxism, regular visits to the dentist are a must.

Bruxism Causes – Why The Condition Is Prevalent

Bruxism is a medical condition characterized by the clenching or grinding of teeth, usually done unintentionally and unconsciously. It can occur either when a person is awake or when he is asleep. Sleep-related bruxism is often the bigger problem because it is harder to control. While the condition is not fatal in itself, unchecked bruxism causes increasing damage to the dental structure.

bruxism causes

Stress is one of the most common bruxism causes.

Some Common Bruxism Causes

There are various theories as to why a person grinds his teeth. Here are some of them:

  • Stress And Anxiety

    Bruxism has been frequently linked to certain mental conditions, the most common being day-to-day stress. This link has been seconded by studies that have been conducted on patients with bruxism. These studies have revealed that people may grind their teeth due to stress and anxiety, without actually being aware of it.

    There is a direct correlation between stress and bruxism i.e. greater the stress levels, higher the number of bruxism incidences. The reason for this could be the disturbing negative effect of stress on the quality of sleep.

  • Sleep Disorders

    Obstructive sleep apnea (a sleep disorder characterized by the stoppage of breathing during sleep) is a known cause of bruxism.

    You can be at a risk of bruxism if you:

    • Sleep fitfully i.e. you sleep in intermittent bursts
    • Tend to talk incoherently while asleep
    • Are often aggressive in sleep (show signs like kicking out or flailing your arms)
    • Experience a phenomenon known as sleep paralysis, in which you’re momentarily unable to speak or move while falling asleep or while waking up
    • Hallucinate i.e. you experience certain sensations that are not real but only created by your mind
  • Certain Medicines

    In rare cases, certain medicines such as those used to treat depression and elevate moods have been known to cause bruxism.

  • Specific Lifestyle Patterns

    Modernity is not without its negative effects. You can end up becoming a patient of bruxism if your way of life involves:

    • The consumption of too much alcohol
    • Smoking
    • Drug abuse
    • Drinking six or more cups of tea or coffee in a day

Teeth Grinding In Children

There have been hints that as many as 50% of children grind their teeth at some point of time.

Your child may develop bruxism when his baby teeth come out or subsequently when his permanent teeth emerge completely (teething). Grinding that results from teething usually comes to a halt after all the adult teeth have emerged completely. If bruxism persists in children even after teething, it could be due to some of the reasons mentioned above, stress during exams being the most common.

Other Possible Bruxism Causes

causes of bruxism

Having crooked teeth is also one of the causes of bruxism.

Apart from the bruxism causes mentioned above, here are some causes that could leave you susceptible to bruxism:

  • Crooked or missing teeth
  • Abnormally aligned upper and lower teeth
  • Ear aches
  • Complications arising from certain disorders like Parkinson’s disease (a disorder of the brain that leads to trembling and difficulty with walking, movement, and coordination) and cerebral palsy (a group of disorders that can involve brain and nervous system functions, such as movement, learning, hearing, seeing, and thinking)

In many cases of bruxism, there is usually an underlying medical cause for the condition. It is best to counter bruxism causes by seeking treatment for the underlying condition first. Bruxism can progressively affect your teeth, jaws, and other dental structures, causing much pain in the long run, so it is highly advisable to seek prompt treatment for the condition.

What Is Bruxism – Some Details About The Condition

Do you grind your teeth often, usually without being aware of doing so? In all likelihood, you have a medical condition called bruxism. While this condition is not fatal, it can still cause much damage to you teeth, jaws, and the entire dental structure. It is important to learn what is bruxism, as this condition can occur in anyone at any age.

what is bruxism

What is bruxism? It is a condition characterized by the unintentional and unconscious grinding of teeth.

What is Bruxism? – Some Facts About The Condition

  • Bruxism is the medical term that refers to the clenching of jaws or the grinding of teeth. It is called a para functional (outside of normalcy) activity.
  • It is a habitual and more importantly, an involuntary action.
  • People with bruxism often clench their teeth while awake, but in most cases of bruxism, the grinding of teeth occurs during sleep.
  • Most people grind their teeth at some point in their lives.
  • Bruxism can occur at any age. In children, it is usually noted at the time their baby teeth or permanent teeth are coming out.

Bruxism can occur at any age.

What Is Bruxism – The Various Types Of This Condition

Bruxism can can be classified into 2 types:

  • Awake Bruxism

    Awake bruxism is characterized by the involuntary clenching of the teeth in reaction to certain stimuli when a person is awake. He normally does not grind his teeth in this condition.

  • Sleep Bruxism

    This type of bruxism is distinguished by the automatic grinding of teeth during sleep, accompanied by sustained contractions of the jaw muscle.

Bruxism can also be classified as:

  • Primary Bruxism
    This type of bruxism usually comes with no clear underlying medical condition.
  • Secondary Bruxism
    This type occurs due to a pre-existing medical or psychiatric condition in the patient.

Do I Have Bruxism?

As already mentioned, bruxism occurs unintentionally and unconsciously, so if you have the condition, chances are that you have not noticed it. But your condition might be noticeable to:

  • Other people, especially those who sleep in the same room, as they could become aware of the sound you make while grinding your teeth at night
  • Your dentist, who can spot the worn out quality of your teeth when you visit your him for a routine check up
grinding of teeth

The grinding of teeth can cause permanent dental damage and result in jaw pain, ear aches, and headaches.

Bruxism is not a dangerous disorder. However, depending on the severity and the duration of the condition, it can cause permanent damage to the teeth and result in uncomfortable jaw pain, headaches, or ear aches For this reason, it is important to get dental examinations done periodically, to ensure that bruxism can be diagnosed and treated at the earliest, if present.

Choosing A Bruxism Mouth Guard – Tips That Can Help

If you unintentionally or unconsciously clench or grind your teeth, it is highly likely that you are suffering from a condition called bruxism. Though bruxism is not a life-threatening disease, it can cause damage to your teeth, muscles, and joints of the face, depending upon the duration and the intensity involved when you clench or grind your teeth. Not to worry though – you can tackle this condition by using a bruxism mouth guard.

What’s A Bruxism Mouth Guard?

A bruxism mouth guard is an appliance used to protect your teeth from the damage caused by habitual clenching or grinding. It covers your teeth and partly your gums.

bruxism mouth guard

Try a bruxism mouth guard to avoid unconsciously clenching and grinding your teeth.

Some Features Of The Bruxism Mouth Guard

A bruxism mouth guard:

  • Acts as a shock absorber and protects your teeth by preventing contact between your upper and lower teeth
  • Is usually transparent
  • May be flexible, semi-rigid, or rigid
  • Can cover either the upper or lower teeth
  • Must be worn while you are sleeping
  • Can be worn by both adults and children

A bruxism mouth guard can also be helpful in certain other situations, such as in contact sports (boxing and football), ailments of the jaw joint, stabilizing the upper and lower teeth, and dental procedures like tooth bleaching.

Questions To Ask While Buying A Bruxism Mouth Guard

To ensure that you get the right bruxism mouth guard for your problems, these are some of the questions that you should ask while picking one up.

  • Will it cause difficulty during breathing?
  • Is it durable?
  • Is it easy to use i.e. is it easy to insert and remove the mouth guard?
  • Is it easy to clean?

The Different Types Of Bruxism Mouth Guards

Stock/Ready-made Mouth Protectors

  • They are manufactured in bulk in various sizes and are ready for instant use.
  • They are reasonably priced, and are available at pharmacies and sports shops.
  • As they are ready-made, they might be slightly ill-fitting. Adjustments cannot be made to improve their fit, but they can be trimmed a little using a pair of scissors.
  • They are not routinely recommended by dentists.

Boil And Bite Mouth Protectors

  • Also called mouth-adapted guards, these popular mouth guards are made from a thermoplastic material that softens on heating and hardens on cooling.
  • They fit much better than ready-made mouth guards.
  • Prior to use, place this mouth guard in hot water to soften it. Then place it in your mouth and gently adjust it over your teeth using your fingers and tongue.

Custom-fitted Mouth Protectors

  • Made of resin, these mouth guards provide the best fit and comfort, and form the greatest shield when you grind your teeth.
  • They are slightly expensive compared to the other options.
  • These are intended for use only in a particular patient, and are made at the dentist’s clinic or in a dental laboratory.
  • Your dentist needs to take a measurement of your teeth to make this type of mouth guard for you.

Is Your Bruxism Mouth Guard Comfortable To Wear?

When the mouth guard has been placed in your mouth, you must check for certain things:

  • Is the mouth guard seated completely?
  • Does it feel unsettled?
  • Is it causing you any pain or discomfort?
  • Are your gums feeling pinched as a result of wearing the mouth guard?

If you’ve answered any of these questions with a ‘yes’, do consult your dentist for further advice.

Various brands of mouth guards are available commercially, and manufacturers claim that there are mouth guards suited for a variety of conditions such as smaller mouths, sensitive gums, and severe bruxers. However, the best person to recommend a bruxism mouth guard would be your dentist, so make sure that you consult him before making a decision.

Bruxism Treatment – How To Get A Permanent Solution

If you persistently grind and clench your teeth, most often unintentionally or unconsciously, you might suffer from a condition called bruxism. While this condition is not life-threatening, you must undergo bruxism treatment to prevent irreversible damage to your teeth and their surrounding structures (joints).

bruxism treatment

Start your bruxism treatment with a hot water bottle to soothe your jaw muscles.

Bruxism Treatment – The Factors That Count

A precise treatment for bruxism is based upon certain factors such as:

  • Your age
  • The cause of bruxism
  • Underlying medical problems
  • Extent of the damage caused

Bruxism Treatment – How To Deal With The Condition

Bruxism treatment involves providing relief from the pain, managing the damage already done to your dental structure, preventing further damage, and doing away with the habit.

Practice Simple Measures To Limit The Condition

Here are some simple measures you can take to reduce the pain caused by bruxism and deal with the condition:

  • Use either a hot water bottle or a cold compress over the jaw muscles to relieve the soreness, or place a warm cloth over your cheeks (just in front of your earlobe) to relax your jaw muscles
  • Refrain from eating hard food items like nuts
  • Get enough undisturbed sleep at night
  • Minimize your levels of stress and anxiety
  • Practise relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation
  • Reduce the pain and soreness by massaging the muscles of the face, neck, and shoulders to help release stress, or ask someone at home to do it for you
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Limit your intake of alcohol and caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea and coke), especially at night
  • If you habitually chew gum, now is the time to stop it, as constant chewing makes the jaw muscles tense and increases the risk of bruxism
  • Do away with habits like chewing on the ends of pencils
  • Make a conscious effort to relax your face and jaw muscles during your waking hours
  • If you are grinding your teeth when awake, place your tongue between your teeth to stop doing so

Pay A Visit To The Dentist

When you plan a visit to your dentist, ensure that you carry a list of your symptoms, the medication you are currently on, and any queries you have regarding the condition.

If the dentist identifies the cause of bruxism (sleep disorders or certain medicines), he will refer you to a physician who can cure you of the underlying problem. Although not a common practice, your dentist may prescribe a few doses of medication to relax your muscles (muscle relaxants).

He may also prescribe a mouth guard to protect your teeth and prevent them from damage when you clench or grind them.

Give Biofeedback A Shot

Biofeedback is a relatively new technique that aids patients in consciously making an effort not to grind their teeth. It can help you only if you clench or grind your teeth when you are awake and is not to be used if you are a sleep ‘bruxer’.

This technique uses an electronic instrument to detect muscle activity and informs you if there is any increase in the muscle activity usually identified with bruxism. This will help you keep a check on the condition.

Consult A Physical Therapist Or A Counselor

Visit a counselor to help reduce stress levels and make you a calmer person, which in turn reduces bruxism. Seek the aid of a physical therapist to learn stretching exercises, to maintain optimal balance in the muscles of your face, neck, and shoulders.

With plenty of options available for bruxism treatment, it is highly recommended that you immediately get to the root of this troublesome condition, which is not fatal but can definitely damage your teeth!