Are you grinding your teeth?

Ever wondered why your jaw feels sore when you wake up? Or why you can’t seem to shake that morning tension headache? Clenching, gritting and grinding your teeth can be an indication of emotional stress, amongst other things, and can lead to damaging your teeth. Here’s what you need to know to get on top of a jaw that works overtime.

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, involves the excessive clenching and grinding of teeth, which can occur during sleep or even while awake. Often, individuals are unaware of this habit until it’s noticed by a family member or partner who hears the grinding noise.


What causes bruxism?

Bruxism is a relatively complex issue. The reasons why it occurs are varied and still not fully understood however there are a range of factors that can increase your risk of teeth grinding such as:

  • Emotional stress
  • Physical stress like illness
  • Anxiety
  • Snoring
  • Sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea
  • Effects of smoking, alcohol or drug use
  • Teeth misalignment or abnormal anatomy of teeth or jaws
  • Changes in the jaw or dental occlusion
  • Certain medications


What are the symptoms of bruxism?

Symptoms of bruxism can vary and may include sensitive teeth, sore jaw muscles, headaches resembling earaches, tooth wear, cracked enamel, repeated tooth fractures, limited jaw movement, jaw clicking, or grinding noises during sleep.


What treatment is available for bruxism?

Treating bruxism early is important to avoid any significant dental complications. Although there are many possible causes for bruxism, treatment often depends on identifying and addressing its potential causes. This may involve stress management techniques or adjustments to your dental occlusion.

One common approach to minimising damage to your teeth is the use of an occlusal splint—a plastic guard worn over the teeth to prevent them from grinding against each other. Splints are typically worn at night but can also be used during the day if necessary.

If you know you grind your teeth, or if you suspect teeth grinding may be to blame for pain or other symptoms, book an appointment to speak to your dentist. Depending on the suspected causes, your dentist will recommend the most suitable treatment options for you.