Understanding Teeth Grinding


Do you often wake up in the morning with a headache or a sore jaw? Have you noticed tooth sensitivity or worn-down teeth? These could be signs of a common dental issue called teeth grinding or bruxism. While occasional teeth grinding may not cause harm, chronic bruxism can lead to serious dental problems and a lot of discomfort.

What causes teeth grinding?

There are two types of teeth grinding day time and night time grinding that may have different underlying causes. Night time grinding seems to be driven by the central nervous system and may have a genetic component. Day time grinding seems to be more reactive to the stress points and anxieties of daily living.

Teeth grinding generally develops from a combination of factors.

  • The most important trigger factor appears to be the stresses and anxieties associated with modern living in the most developed societies.
  • A genetic predisposition
  • Lifestyle factors Including Smoking, Caffeine and Alcohol consumption.
  • Medications: Certain medications used to treat depression, seizures, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may increase the chances of having bruxism

The effect of chronic teeth grinding may include some or all of the following signs and symptoms.

  • Tooth Damage – Flattened, chipped, cracked  or loose teeth sometimes accompanied by tooth pain or sensitivity.
  • Soreness or Tiredness of the jaw muscles sometimes accompanied by tightness in the jaw.
  • Headache or Facial Pain especially on waking.

Treatments for Bruxism

Easing Teeth Grinding and Clenching
  • The first and most important step is to reduce daily stressors by using relaxation techniques including meditation, deep breathing exercises, hypnosis, and professional counselling. These methods can help reduce the frequency and lessen the impact of teeth grinding episodes.
  • Night grinding may be associated with sleep disturbances so get help from your dentist or your doctor if this is a problem for you.
  • If you are having severe symptoms from teeth grinding avoid eating hard dense foods and do not chew gum.
  • Develop awareness of grinding and learn a resting mouth and jaw position with the teeth slightly apart. Use reminders to prompt your attention to grinding.
  • Use a mouthguard as advised by your dentist to separate the teeth; this prevents teeth damage.
  • Medication especially a muscle relaxant may be prescribed by your dentist or doctor in an acute painful episode where there is spasm of the jaw muscles and limited opening of the mouth.
  • Visit your dentist regularly so that damage to teeth can be spotted early and preventive action taken to prevent further damage.