Bruxism Explained: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

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Just like with snoring, many people are unaware that they grind their teeth until one night they are asleep and someone overhears them. The gnashing sounds of teeth grinding against each other is a tell-tale sign of a condition known as bruxism.  Bruxism is an unconscious habit of clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth. It can occur while you’re awake or asleep. 

What causes bruxism? 

Bruxism can be caused by a number of factors. These most commonly are: 

  • Stress and anxiety:  These are significant factors which can negatively affect a person’s mood and lead to jaw clenching or teeth grinding. Other emotional responses or feelings that can trigger bruxism include nervousness, tension, pain, anger and frustration. It is also believed that suppression of feelings can exacerbate the condition.
  • Medication side effects: A side effect of taking certain medications, such as antidepressants and antipsychotics, is bruxism. Fluoxetine and paroxetine, which are selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), induce teeth grinding. Neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain and hyperactivity can also lead to mandibular movements which promote teeth grinding. 
  • Malocclusion: This is the misalignment of teeth in the jaw. This means that teeth fail to mesh together comfortably. The subsequent tension in the jaw can lead to chronic clenching and grinding of the teeth.

What are the risks of developing bruxism? 

Having certain health conditions can increase your chances of developing bruxism. Some of these are:  

  • Depression
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • Epilepsy
  • Dementia
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD)
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

There are lifestyle habits that predispose people to bruxism, such as heavy drinking of alcohol, smoking or consuming tobacco, drinking caffeinated liquids, frequently chewing gum or candy and taking psychoactive recreational drugs.

What are the symptoms of bruxism?  

While jaw clenching and teeth grinding are the most common symptoms of bruxism, there are many associated symptoms of this condition. A dentist’s inspection of your mouth and jaw may reveal the following signs:

  • Thinning tooth enamel
  • Bulging jaw muscles 
  • Worn tooth surfaces with a flattened appearance
  • Chipped or fractured teeth
  • Crowns or fillings that are damaged
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Gingival inflammation or recession
  • Locked jaws or temporomandibular joint dysfunction

Non-dental symptoms associated with bruxism include headaches or migraines, ear aches and referred pain to the face, neck or shoulders.

How can bruxism be cured or treated?

Therapies for alleviating bruxism are aimed at reducing pain and preventing teeth grinding. This is to ease the stress on the jaw and halt further damage to the teeth. 

1. Mouth guards 

Mouth guards provide effective prevention of bruxism, especially at night. The mouth guard absorbs the force of the bite and protects gums and teeth. Your dentist can custom-make them depending on your jaw structure to fit comfortably in your mouth. 

The firmness of the guard will depend on the severity of the bruxism experienced. Teeth grinding with severe impact on oral structures will require a harder mouth guard to cushion the force.

2. Medication

Medication is often prescribed to relax the jaw muscles and treat the underlying condition causing bruxism. Every person is different and therefore these medications will vary per diagnosis:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen may help with sore, painful or inflamed jaw muscles and oral tissues.
  • Muscle relaxants such as baclofen can loosen tight jaw muscles and relieve stress or pain in the jaw.
  • Benzodiazepines have both anti-anxiety and muscle-relaxing effects. This can treat bruxism caused by stress as well as relieve muscle tension in affected areas. These drugs are addictive if taken over the long term.

3. Natural remedies 

Some unconventional therapies may alleviate the symptoms associated with bruxism. 

People have turned to acupuncture, massage and using medical marijuana or CBD oil for pain relief. 

A chiropractor consultation may also assist with getting your head, spine and posture in alignment, as misalignment can exacerbate symptoms of bruxism. 

A more expensive option would be getting botox injections on either side of the jaw to relax the muscles of the face.

Exercise, meditation and yoga are recommended to incorporate into your daily routine to mediate the stresses of life. 

Using essential oils to create a relaxing environment and promote deep sleep can help to reduce teeth grinding at night. 

Modifying behaviour to practise being more aware of the jaw’s position while awake can help alleviate clenching unconsciously. 

Changing your pillow to one with memory foam that supports your jaw, head and neck may relieve pressure on the face and can help prevent jaw clenching at night.

There are certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies that have been associated with bruxism:

  • Vitamin B, specifically Vitamin B5 is useful in treating the underlying issues which cause bruxism, such as stress, fatigue and hyperactivity.
  • Magnesium and calcium deficiencies are known to cause muscle spasms or cramps which can affect the facial area. Therefore, supplementing with calcium and magnesium could provide relief from bruxism. 
  • Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with increased severity of bruxism.
  • Vitamin C can be useful in reducing stress levels, thus treating an underlying cause of bruxism.

How to prevent bruxism from getting worse?

We often hear the saying that prevention is better than cure. With guidance from a registered physician and pharmacist, certain medications that cause bruxism can be swapped for alternatives that have the same therapeutic value. 

Trying to reduce poor lifestyle habits like smoking and drinking alcohol which increases your risk of bruxism, is a start. If malocclusion is the problem, consulting with your orthodontist on methods to align your jaw will help relieve symptoms of bruxism. 

Depending on each individual case, different therapies may be recommended. It’s important to diagnose any suspicion of bruxism to prevent further progression of the condition. With Globmed, a consultation booking is just a click away. 

Bruxism is what is commonly referred to as teeth grinding. It is most often caused by stress or anxiety. There are many treatments available from your local doctor or dentist.

There is no cure to bruxism. But, there are remedies and treatments that can prevent symptoms and any pain caused by bruxism, also known as teeth grinding.


There are many symptoms of bruxism, or teeth grinding. Some common ones are:

  • Face, neck, jaw and shoulder pain

  • Worn or broken teeth

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Earache

  • Headaches and/or migraines

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