What you need to know about bruxism

Bruxism – more commonly known as teeth grinding – is a habit that affects around 1 in 10 people[1].

While it can sometimes be harmless or only short-term, persistent teeth grinding at night can cause serious damage to your teeth as well as headaches, jaw strain and other health problems.

If you or someone in your family has bruxism, find out what you need to know about why it's happening and how to get treatment.

What causes bruxism?

People may grind their teeth or clench their jaws for many different reasons. Bruxism can affect people of all ages, including children.

The most common reasons for teeth grinding are:

  • feelings of stress and anxiety
  • uneven or misaligned teeth
  • teething in children and infants
  • sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA)
  • medications such as antipsychotics and antidepressants
  • alcohol, tobacco and recreational drug use.

Understanding what's causing your bruxism is the first step to getting effective treatment.

What are the symptoms?

Because most teeth grinding happens during sleep, other people may notice your bruxism before you do. But there are other symptoms to look out for that could indicate bruxism is present.

You may feel aches or pains in your teeth, jaw, ears, head and face when you wake up, as well as stiffness of the shoulders and difficulty opening your mouth wide when eating or speaking.

If your bruxism is more severe or persists for a long time, you may notice that your teeth are becoming worn and misshapen or that your fillings and other dental restorations are damaged.

Children with bruxism are more likely to have trouble sleeping. Bruxism has also been linked to behaviour and attention problems.

How can I stop grinding my teeth?

If you think you might be grinding your teeth at night, or you've noticed yourself grinding or clenching your jaw in the day, you should make an appointment to see your dentist.

Even if your bruxism is caused by stress, anxiety or other psychological factors, your dentist needs to check your teeth for any signs of wear or damage and to make any repairs that are needed. They will then be able to make recommendations about how to treat the condition or alleviate its symptoms.

If your bruxism is caused by an uneven or misaligned bite, your dentist may recommend a suitable corrective treatment such as orthodontics or cosmetic treatment such as crowns or veneers. They may also recommend relaxation exercises, lifestyle changes such as giving up smoking, or refer you to counselling services such as cognitive behaviour therapy.

While your bruxism is being treated, you may be prescribed a bruxism mouthguard to wear at night. This custom-fitted occlusal splint stops your teeth from grinding against each other, preventing further damage to the tooth enamel and reducing jaw aches and pains.

Talk to our dentists about bruxism treatments

Find out more about bruxism mouthguards and other treatments to stop teeth grinding by getting in touch with Ocean Reef Dental Surgery.

Call our dental clinic in Perth's Northern Suburbs on (08) 9307 6700 or make an appointment online.

[1] American Sleep Association (ASA). Bruxism [Online] 2007 [Accessed Mar 2017] Available from: www.sleepassociation.org/