Bruxism, or teeth grinding, occurs during sleep and is an involuntary action, with many individuals not realizing the condition exists until symptoms are noted or until they visit their dentist for a checkup.  Bruxism involves the constant gnashing, grinding or clenching of teeth.  Those individuals with serious cases of bruxism, can have future dental complications if left untreated.

The causes of bruxism are varied, and it may be difficult for a doctor to determine the exact cause of teeth grinding.  Following is a list of the more common causes for bruxism.

  • Suppressed anger or frustration
  • Unresolved anxiety, stress, tension or fear
  • Abnormal sleep problems or habits
  • Misalignment of upper and lower teeth
  • An aggressive, competitive, hyperactive personality
  • Crooked or missing teeth
  • Side effects of other medication, such as antidepressants
  • In children, response to teething pain or an earache
  • Complications or side effects of other medical diseases, such as Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s disease

Bruxism occurs during sleep, which makes it difficult for a person to even know they have the condition until seen by a dentist.  Common signs and symptoms of bruxism are listed below.

  • Continuous dull headaches
  • Sore or painful jaw
  • Heightened teeth sensitivity to cold, hot, sweet or sour foods
  • Stress or insomnia
  • Chronic facial pain
  • Worn tooth enamel
  • Loose and/or fractured teeth with unknown reasons
  • Earaches (the jaw bone is close to the ear canal)
  • Damage to the inside of the cheeks or tongue from chewing

If bruxism is left untreated, your bones and jaw many be damaged due to constant wear and tear.  Your teeth, also, can fracture or wear down.

To prevent bruxism, a person needs to take steps to reduce stress in their life, avoid stimulants at night and visit their dentist regularly.

The majority of children will outgrow bruxism.  However, for adult sufferers, there are several ways to relieve teeth grinding.

  • Mouth guards – This is the most common way to relieve tooth grinding.  Mouth guards can be purchased at a local drug store, but your dentist can fit you with a customized mouth guard that will give a more comfortable fit.
  • Dental work – When the tooth grinding is associated with dental problems, bruxism may be lessened by fixing the problems.  Tooth crowns, braces or splints may be used to aid reconstructive dental work.
  • Stress relief – Stress Management therapy can be used to relieve bruxism if it is caused by stress, fear or anxiety.  Effective methods to assist in relieving teeth grinding are exercise, meditation, physical therapy, relaxation techniques or professional counseling.
  • Biofeedback therapy – Biofeedback therapy can be helpful if the bruxism is of a behavioral nature of is habit-based.
  • Medication – Though not as common as other methods, some doctors will prescribe muscle relaxants for their patient to take before sleeping.

If you suffer from any of the symptoms of bruxism, have a family member observe your sleep habits.  If they do detect a grinding, crunching or clicking sound during your sleep, then you are more than likely grinding your teeth.  A dental checkup will determine if you do indeed have bruxism, and, if you do, your dentist will take the necessary steps to treat your condition.