Teeth grinding (bruxism)

 Teeth grinding (bruxism)

Teeth grinding (bruxism) is involuntary clenching, grinding and gnashing of the teeth. It is thought that about half of the population bruxes from time to time, while around five per cent are habitual and forceful tooth grinders. It generally happens during sleep, but some people experience it when they are awake. Bruxism can be a physical expression of stress; for example, susceptible people may tend to grind their teeth when they are angry, concentrating hard on a particular task or feeling anxious. Generally, the person doesn’t realise that they grind their teeth in their sleep. The spouse or partner who shares their bed (and hears the grinding noises at night) is often the first to notice the problem.

Signs and symptoms of bruxism include:

  • Audible grinding sounds while the person is asleep
  • Headache, jaw joint and/or ear pain
  • Aching teeth, particularly upon waking
  • Aching and/or stiffness of the face and temples upon waking
  • Aching or stiffness in the jaws while chewing, particularly during breakfast
  • Clenching the jaw when angry, anxious or concentrating
  • Temperature-sensitive teeth
  • Cracked or chipped tooth enamel
  • Tooth indentations on the tongue
  • Raised tissue on the cheek mucosa caused by cheek biting (linea alba)
  • Mobile teeth.
  • Complications of Bruxism

Teeth grinding can cause a range of dental problems, which may include:

  • Cracked tooth enamel
  • Excessive wear and tear on the teeth
  • Broken teeth or restorations
  • Strain on the joints and soft tissue of the jaw joint (temporo-mandibular joint)
  • Temporo-mandibular disorder
  • Tooth loss (rarely)
  • Enlargement of the jaw muscles (rarely).
  • Some of the many factors believed to trigger bruxism in susceptible people include:
  • Emotional stress, such as anger or anxiety
  • Mental concentration
  • Physical effort or stress, such as illness, nutritional deficiency or dehydration
  • Incorrect tooth alignment, including fillings that are too ‘high’