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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 as it is an unconscious behaviour. The spouse or partner who shares their bed (and hears the grinding noises at night) is often the first to notice the problem. Dentists also reported a 69 percent jump in patients who clench or grind their teeth during the pandemic, according to the Australian Dental Association (ADA).

Signs & Symptoms


  • 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

Causes of Bruxism

  • Stress
  • Alchol and tobacco
  • Medications: anti-depressants and anti-psychotic
  • Medical conditions: dementia, Parkinsons’ disease, or stroke
  • Existing temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders
  • Sleep apnoea


Treatment Options 

  • Occlusal splint: a plastic mouth guard that puts puts space between the upper and lower teeth to protect them and allows the jaw muscles to relax. A guard customized for you by your dentist is usually more effective than an over-the-counter product, and is sometimes covered by insurance. Neither breaks the habit but will prevent further tooth damage.
  • Botox: Botulinum toxin injections into the jaw muscles that control chewing may reduce the pressure you exert on teeth and relieve any TMJ related problems.
  • Stress reduction: relaxing activities (like yoga and meditation) may help. So can increasing your awareness of the behavior. A tip: “If, during a stressful moment, you feel your teeth touching, gently allow your jaw to open and the teeth to float away from each other,”.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist trained to treat bruxism can teach you exercises to stretch, strengthen, and relax neck and jaw muscles, which can reduce the muscle tension that may lead to clenching and grinding.
  • Sleep study and CPAP machine
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