Bruxism – Teeth Grinding Symptoms, Treatment & Causes

Night guard for Bruxism

Bruxism is a finding during sleep that is characterized by clenching and grinding of the teeth. This can occur numerous times during a sleep session, and can cause sleep disruptions, as well as damage to the teeth. Bruxism most often occurs in the early stages of sleep before deep sleep.

Bruxism can also happen unintentionally during waking hours, often as the result of stress or anger, but this is usually noticed within a few seconds by the subject.

Bruxism Symptoms

Bruxism usually involves the incisors and canines moving laterally against each other, which can lead to tooth decay of the enamel, and the loss of their sharp biting surfaces. Bruxism is also damaging to any dental work done. It may also be due to the molars grinding together. In some people, bruxism will occur through clenching of the jaw, with little side to side movement. This can result in pain, and will likely disturb sleep. The sound of the teeth grinding together is not loud enough to disturb sleep in most cases.

Bruxism – Teeth Grinding – Who gets it?

Bruxism is a common sleep finding, affecting 10% of people and as many as 15% of children. The bruxism rates decrease with age, and this may be due to the reflexive action that often causes bruxism. Bruxism rates are also higher in people with a family history of the disorder, with rates as high as 50%. Males and females are affected at about the same rate. Bruxism is often undetected. The first indication that there may be a problem often comes from the dentist who recognizes the damage done to the teeth

Bruxism Causes

Bruxism is often caused by stress or anxiety, and is also found with increased regularity in highly determined people. Bruxism may also be higher when caffeine or nicotine is consumed before sleep.

If bruxism is suspected, you may need to take steps to prevent or nullify it, depending on its severity. One step to detection is the BiteStrip, an overnight detection device that monitors jaw activity. An overnight sleep study can also be used to detect bruxism.

Bruxism – Teeth Grinding – Treatment Options

Alleviating the effects of bruxism is easily attained through any number of oral devices, such as mouth night guards. These can be purchased at drug stores and then self molded at home to give a proper fit. More personalized ones, that ideally fit the shape of the mouth and teeth can be acquired through a dentist or a dental lab, though these are understandably more costly.  Specialty online retailers now sell customized mouth guards, too.  You may find these to be a good compromise for a custom fit at a more reasonable price.

How to stop grinding your teeth at night

Many cases have been found of individuals who only experience bruxism when sleeping in a specific position. The jaw being set in a certain position during sleep may trigger the natural eating reflexes of the brain, which are not turned off during sleep, and cause the bruxism. In these scenarios, refraining from sleeping in the position may decrease the incidents.

Though bruxism, like most sleep disorders, has no cure, if it’s suspected that stress or other similar factors may be causing the disorder, eliminating those problems may help alleviate the condition. In these cases, a doctor should again be consulted.

Relaxation techniques should also be used at night to calm the mind before sleep. This includes yoga, listening to gentle music, taking a hot bath or drinking green tea. Eating before sleep may also limit the natural reflexes of the jaw, though results of this method are unverified, and eating before sleep may lead to other problems.


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12 thoughts on “Bruxism – Teeth Grinding Symptoms, Treatment & Causes

  1. David Reply

    Excellent, yes the time of over reliance on pharmaceuticals is abruptly coming into the awareness of many, the effectiveness of many holistic modalities has been long overlooked and actively maligned by that industry.

  2. SDZ Reply

    I suspect that application of a soothing and relaxing substance to the joint of the jaw could most help relieve this problem. An ill-fitting guard will exacerbate it, leading to constant chewing. A chinstrap would work if one existed that would both fit and stay in place and provide support. What works best for me is a tubular pillow that I can vertically wedge under my arm and rest my chin on the end.

  3. azra Reply

    I found that botox jabs into masseter muscle helped, but now the stress and anxiety is expressed through auditory hypnagogic hallucinations. Whatever next? I despair.

  4. Judy Reply

    I have Narcolepsy with Cataplexy, was diagnosed around 14 years ago. I am currently on Adderall (about 6 years now). About 8 months ago I starting teeth chattering all the time and it’s getting worse. My husband and kids will ask me to stop, because most of the time I don’t realize I am doing it. I have had strangers in public ask if I was cold. My teeth and jaws hurt, I live on orajel and Tylenol. Is this from the Narcolepsy or maybe the Adderall?

    • Damien Reply

      Judy. This is definitely the Adderall, I had the same thing. I came off of it in 2014 and I’m still dealing with the jaw clenching.

  5. KK Reply

    Experienced increasing bruxism pain over 4 days, a period of time that I began taking Xyzal, an antihistamine. It began with Xyzal and ended when stopping Xyzal. Bizarre! Went back to using Claritin.

  6. Colleen Sexton Reply

    I notice that you recommend drinking green tea as a way to relax and ready your mind for sleep. Green tea does have caffeine, albeit low levels relative to coffee (75mg vs. 200+mg). Perhaps you meant to suggest herbal tea?

  7. Jasmine Miller Reply

    Craniosacral Therapy has a high success rate of alleviating and even eliminating many symptoms of bruxism. My case study had elimination of all teeth grinding and chronic headaches after just two sessions, and she had been suffering with the condition for decades. Expanding treatment to include holistic therapies can be promising to those who suffer from bruxism. Since traditional Western medicine doesn’t often look outside of the pharmaceutical box many are left to suffer needlessly. Although like all treatments it may not work for everyone in this same way, it’s important to expand one’s awareness of alternate therapies before informing people there is no effective treatment.

    • SDZ Reply

      Holistic remedies are too often wishful thinking or placebo effects, at worst, their mindset works against Medicine, which can become dangerous. Any kind of massage involving the jaw could be helpful, but it totally depends on who you go to. You were lucky, is all, in my view. I have had much experience in that realm.

    • David Reply

      Excellent, yes the time of over reliance on pharmaceuticals is abruptly coming into the awareness of many, the effectiveness of many holistic modalities has been long overlooked and actively maligned by that industry.

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