Understanding Bruxism: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options


Bruxism, more commonly known as teeth grinding, is a condition that affects many people, often without them even knowing it. Whether it happens during the day or at night while sleeping, bruxism can lead to various dental problems and discomfort. Understanding what causes bruxism, recognizing its symptoms, and exploring available treatment options can help manage this condition effectively and improve dental health.

Although typically a subconscious habit, bruxism can have significant long-term effects if left unaddressed. Early identification and intervention are vital to preventing more serious complications.

Bruxism (teeth grinding) at night

Causes of Bruxism:

The exact causes of bruxism are not entirely understood, but several factors are known to contribute to the condition:

  1. Stress and Anxiety: High levels of stress and anxiety can lead to teeth grinding as a way for the body to release tension. This is one of the most common causes of bruxism.
  2. Sleep Disorders: People with sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, are more likely to grind their teeth during the night.
  3. Medications and Substances: Certain medications, especially those used to treat mental health conditions, can cause bruxism as a side effect. Stimulant substances like caffeine and tobacco can also increase the likelihood of teeth grinding.
  4. Lifestyle Factors: Poor lifestyle habits, such as irregular sleep patterns or excessive alcohol consumption, can contribute to bruxism.
  5. Teeth Misalignment: Misaligned teeth or an abnormal bite may cause some people to grind their teeth.
  6. Genetics: Bruxism can run in families. If a close family member has bruxism, there is a higher chance of developing it.

Understanding these causes can help identify why bruxism occurs and guide effective management and treatment options.

Symptoms of Bruxism:

Identifying the symptoms of bruxism, or teeth grinding, is crucial for early intervention and treatment. Common symptoms include:

  1. Jaw Pain or Soreness: Persistent or recurring pain in the jaw, temporomandibular joints (TMJ), or the muscles around the jaw can indicate bruxism.
  2. Headaches: Frequent headaches, particularly in the temples, can result from the constant grinding and clenching of teeth.
  3. Teeth Sensitivity: Grinding can wear down the enamel, increasing sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet foods and beverages.
  4. Worn or Damaged Teeth: Over time, the pressure exerted while grinding can cause noticeable flattening, chipping, or cracking of the teeth.
  5. Ear Pain: The proximity of the jaw joints to the ears means that pain can often be felt in the ears or just in front of them.
  6. Disrupted Sleep: For nighttime bruxism, the noise of grinding teeth can disturb the sleep of the person affected and their partner.
  7. Tight or Tired Jaw Muscles: Upon waking, sufferers may experience tightness or fatigue in the jaw muscles.

Recognizing these symptoms can help seek timely dental advice and prevent more severe dental or health issues associated with bruxism.

Treatment Options for Bruxism:

Treating bruxism typically addresses the underlying causes and mitigating the effects on the teeth and jaw. Here are several effective strategies and treatment options:

  1. Stress Management: Since stress and anxiety are significant contributors to bruxism, adopting stress-reducing techniques can be beneficial. Practices such as yoga, meditation, and deep-breathing exercises can help calm the mind and reduce the tendency to grind teeth.
  2. Mouthguards and Splints: Wearing a mouthguard or splint at night can protect teeth from the damage caused by grinding. A dentist’s custom-fitted devices create a physical barrier between the upper and lower teeth, reducing wear and tear.
  3. Dental Corrections: Orthodontic treatments like braces or dental restorations might be recommended if teeth are misaligned or an abnormal bite contributes to bruxism. These corrections aim to align the teeth properly, alleviating the need to grind.
  4. Medication: In some cases, medications may be prescribed to manage bruxism. Muscle relaxants can be taken before bedtime to relax the jaw muscles. If bruxism is related to another condition, such as anxiety or depression, doctors may prescribe antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs.
  5. Behavioural Therapy: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help individuals become more aware of their teeth grinding and develop healthier habits. A therapist may work with the patient to understand the triggers and cognitive processes behind bruxism.
  6. Lifestyle Changes: Reducing stimulant intake, such as caffeine and tobacco, can decrease the incidence of bruxism. Ensuring good sleep hygiene by maintaining a regular sleep schedule and creating a relaxing bedtime routine can also help.
  7. Biofeedback: This technique involves electronic monitoring to develop awareness and control physiological functions. Biofeedback for bruxism can help individuals learn to reduce muscle tension and jaw clenching.

Combining these treatments, tailored to the individual’s specific causes and symptoms, can significantly alleviate the discomfort and dental issues associated with bruxism. Regular dental check-ups are essential to monitor the condition and adapt treatment plans.

Bruxism Treatment in NE Calgary, AB

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of bruxism, don’t wait to seek help. 

Dr. Brent MacDonald’s clinic in NE Calgary, AB, provides comprehensive treatment options tailored to your specific needs. Schedule an appointment today to discuss your concerns and begin a personalized treatment plan to alleviate pain and protect your dental health.

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