man with bruxism jaw pain

What is bruxism?

Have you ever woken up with sensitive teeth or find yourself clenching your jaw during a stressful day? You could be grinding your teeth. Bruxism, as it’s known, is thought to affect 30% of us during the day and 10% of us at night.1

But what is bruxism, and what can we do to manage it? Find everything you need to know below.

What is bruxism?

Bruxism is basically a medical word for grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw.2

It’s usually an involuntary response, and it can happen when we’re awake or asleep. Bruxism while awake and sleep bruxism are thought of as two distinct conditions, with daytime teeth grinding considered to be the most common.

It’s worth remembering that you might not realise you grind your teeth while asleep. It’s not always simple to know precisely how many people experience sleep bruxism.3 It’s thought to be most common in younger children and adolescents, although people of any age can experience bruxism.4

What causes bruxism?

There could be several different bruxism causes, and these might be different depending on whether you are experiencing awake bruxism or sleep bruxism.5 Some of the causes might include:6,7
  • Stress, anxiety, or anger
  • Intense concentration
  • Sleep disorders
  • Smoking or drinking alcohol
  • Drinking too many caffeinated drinks
  • Genetics
  • Certain medications
It’s worth remembering that the causes of bruxism can be multifactorial, meaning there could be more than one reason for grinding your teeth.8

Symptoms of bruxism

If you grind your teeth in your sleep, you might not notice that you are experiencing bruxism. Equally, you may not associate your symptoms with teeth grinding even when you are awake.9 Some symptoms of bruxism may include:10,11,12
  • Facial pain or jaw ache
  • Headaches
  • Earache
  • Poor sleep
  • Broken teeth or fillings
  • Increased tooth sensitivity
  • Sore gums
  • Worn-down teeth

Some of these symptoms may cease when you stop grinding your teeth. However, if you are concerned, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor or dentist.

When to see a doctor

Like we mentioned above, it’s not always easy to know if you are grinding your teeth. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms or someone has let you know that you grind your teeth, it’s worth speaking to your doctor or dentist.

Dentists will be able to help with any tooth damage and may provide a guard or splint to protect against future damage.13 If you are concerned about stress or anxiety, it’s a good idea to visit your doctor. Reducing stress and getting into a healthy sleep routine may help to treat your bruxism. However, it will, of course, depend on the underlying cause.14

Last updated: 6 November 2020

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