Bruxism Symptoms: 8 Signs of Grinding Teeth

By: SleepScore Labs  |  September 12th, 2019

Bruxism Symptoms: 8 Signs of Grinding Teeth

Has someone told you that you grind, gnash, or clench your teeth while sleeping? If they have, you probably have a condition known as bruxism. Bruxism, when untreated, can cause tooth damage, headaches, and even severe jaw disorders.   

You’re unlikely to be aware of your behaviors during sleep if you sleep alone. This article looks at signs that you may have bruxism, potential causes and methods for prevention, and when to speak to a medical professional. 

What Is Bruxism? 

Bruxism is a movement disorder that occurs when a person unintentionally, repetitively, and excessively grinds, gnashes, and clenches their teeth.  

There are two types of sleep bruxism: 

  1. Sleep bruxism: occurs when a person is asleep. 
  2. Awake or daytime bruxism: occurs while a person is awake. 

What Are Bruxism Symptoms? 

Frequent sleep bruxism affects up to 13 percent of adults. This sleep-related movement disorder is primarily characterized by grinding and clenching the teeth during sleep and can occur at any sleep stage. 

However, sleep bruxism comes with other signs, and here are some of them:  

  1. Sleep disruption 
  2. Headache 
  3. Sore jaw 
  4. Earache 
  5. Facial pain 
  6. Painful jaw 
  7. Worn-down teeth 
  8. Neck and shoulder pain 

What Causes Bruxism? 

Experts have not identified the exact cause of sleep bruxism. However, there are risk factors that may contribute to the incident of sleep bruxism. Let’s take a look at some of them: 

  1. Stress: People who feel stressed may experience sleep bruxism. Studies suggest a significant relationship between stress levels and sleep bruxism occurrence. 
  2. Lifestyle choices: Habits such as excessive alcohol and caffeine intake and heavy smoking may increase a person’s chances of sleep bruxism. 
  3. Anxiety and depression: Studies show an association between sleep bruxism and anxiety and depression symptoms. 
  4. Genes: Genetic studies suggest that sleep bruxism runs in families. A person’s likelihood of having sleep bruxism increases if a family member has it.  
  5. Certain medications: Sleep bruxism is associated with taking medications like anti-anxiety drugs, antipsychotics, stimulants, and antidepressants.  

How Do You Diagnose Bruxism?  

Because of the nature of this disorder, a doctor or dentist can diagnose a person with bruxism. A healthcare professional may diagnose by using a self-report of your symptoms and examining your teeth and jaws for signs of bruxism.  

Polysomnography, a test that can accurately identify the presence of any sleep disorder, can also be carried out to check for bruxism. 

Can Bruxism Be Cured? 

Bruxism cannot be cured and usually doesn’t require treatment unless it leads to other health issues like tooth fractures, sore jaw muscles, and sleep problems. 

A healthcare professional might prescribe the use of night guards—plastic oral appliances worn between the teeth—to protect the teeth from clenching and grinding together. 

How to Cope With Bruxism 

So, what can you do about the nightly grind? According to SleepScore Labs’ Principal Sleep Scientist, Dr. Roy Raymann, modifying behavior can be a great first step in preventing or treating bruxism.  

If stress is the primary cause, try to find ways to reduce the stress before bedtime. Exercise, a warm bath early in the evening, meditation, or massage before bedtime could help. Relax and let go of the day’s stress, Dr. Raymann notes. It’s also important to keep the bedroom as a place for relaxation and sleep, so keep work-related items like computers out of it.   

Dr. Raymann adds that you can also do some bruxism exercises to become more aware when it happens. You can do this by placing your tongue on the back of your top teeth or by relaxing your jaw when you feel jaw tension is building up.   

You can also manage bruxism through: 

  • Psychotherapy: Talk therapy may help a person with relaxation techniques and manage the underlying issues like stress, anxiety, or other mental health conditions that make them grind their teeth. 
  • Physical Therapy: If bruxism causes muscle soreness or stiffness, a doctor may recommend physical therapy. 
  • Medication: Medications like sedatives and muscle relaxants may be prescribed for managing bruxism. However, experts warn that medications should only be recommended as a last resort and be limited to a short time frame.  
  • Medication withdrawal or substitution: If a specific medication is contributing to or causing bruxism, a doctor may recommend that you stop using that medication or prescribe another medication that doesn’t produce this effect.  

If you share a bed with someone with bruxism you can sleep with earplugs to help you sleep through the noise. 

What Are Complications With Bruxism? 

Bruxism, if left untreated, can lead to other health conditions, including: 

  • Tooth hypersensitivity  
  • Tooth fractures or looseness 
  • Teeth wear 
  • Tender or stiff jaw muscles 
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain or tenderness 
  • Pain in the preauricular region, the area around the ear 
  • Headache 
  • Poor sleep 
  • Limited mouth opening ability 

Tips for Preventing Teeth Grinding 

Here are some ways to prevent teeth grinding: 

  1. Limit heavy alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine consumption. 
  2. Go for regular dental checkups so a dentist can help identify if you grind your teeth. 
  3. Prioritize managing your stress levels with relaxation and self-care activities. 
  4. Follow sleep hygiene practices to promote better sleep and functioning during the day. 

Wrapping Up: How to Manage Bruxism Symptoms 

Bruxism causes people to uncontrollably and repeatedly grind their teeth, which can damage or wear them out. It may also lead to other complications that may affect a person’s physical and mental health.  

If you show any symptoms of sleep bruxism, consider seeing a doctor or dentist for diagnosis and treatment. Also, go for regular dental checkups to protect your teeth’ health and help identify underlying issues like bruxism that may be harming your teeth. If you feel stressed, try to engage in relaxation activities every day to help relieve you.  

Perhaps the most common method for reducing the grinding associated with bruxism is by getting a custom-fitted mouthguard from your dentist. You can also find mouth guards that can be molded at home. There are several options on the market, but SleepScore recommends choosing one that has been evaluated and tried by sleep experts. You can check out these SleepScore evaluated dental mouth guards  that work for many people who experience bruxism. Have more questions about bruxism and teeth grinding? Tweet us @sleepscore today!   


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