Bruxism – derived from the Latin word brychein – means “gnashing of teeth.” This diagnosis may be given to anyone who grinds their teeth compulsively or clenches their jaw repetitively.
Although many people believe it to be a rare condition, bruxism affects around 10% of the population. Teeth grinding can occur during the day or night, though approximately 80% of cases occur during sleep. Indeed, nocturnal bruxism is classed as a movement sleep disorder by the International Classification of Sleep Disorders.
Herein lies the issue with diagnosing bruxism; many people are unaware they grind their teeth because they do it in their sleep. Even when signs and symptoms do arise, people don’t necessarily consider teeth grinding could be the cause. In fact, many people don’t realize they do it at all until permanent damage has been caused.
To help you recognize the symptoms, let’s highlight twelve medical issues caused by teeth grinding – from the obvious to the obscure. Let’s also explore how you can treat bruxism (and its secondary conditions).
What Are the Effects of Bruxism?
Table of Contents:
- 1 What Are the Effects of Bruxism?
- 2 How Teeth Grinding and Clenching Affects Your Health
- 2.1 Facial Pain (Leading to Hypertrophy)
- 2.2 Headaches and Nausea
- 2.3 Stiff Shoulders and Neck Pain
- 2.4 Earache
- 2.5 Sleep Disruption
- 2.6 Tooth Sensitivity and Tooth Loss
- 2.7 Fillings Break Off
- 2.8 Inflamed Gums and Pulpitis
- 2.9 Abscess
- 2.10 Temporomandibular Joint Disorder
- 2.11 Tinnitus
- 2.12 Stress and Fatigue
This condition can damage the teeth, disrupt sleep, and negatively impact your day-to-day life. Many of the symptoms are temporary and can be remedied with moderate interventions. However, it’s vital to intervene quickly to prevent permanent damage from occurring.
Broadly speaking, grinding or clenching your teeth can cause the following problems:
- Facial Pain
- A Headache
- Stiff Shoulders and Neck Pain
- An Earache
- Sleep Disruptions
- Inflamed Gums and Tooth Sensitivity
- Pulpitis or an Abscess
- Fillings Breaking Off
- Worn Down Teeth or Tooth Loss
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorder
- Fatigue and Stress
Why Do People Grind Their Teeth?
Bruxism is a condition that affects the masticatory system (the jaw, teeth, tongue, lips, and cheek). Previously, it was assumed that bruxism was caused by a structural abnormality in the jaw– such as an ‘overbite.’ However, over the last 20 years, scientists have discovered that certain neurological and psychosocial factors play a role in this condition.
Let’s explore these risk factors in a bit more detail.
Often, bruxism is classed as a stress-related disorder. But what kind of stress are we talking about? A study conducted in Finland found that more than half of sufferers claimed they had a stressful job and a busy work schedule. So, it’s not necessarily life-changing, traumatic events that lead to stress-induced bruxism. Rather, the stress we experience in everyday life could cause us to grind our teeth.
Scientists aren’t sure exactly why stress leads to jaw clenching, but it could be due to changes in the dopamine pathway in the brain. When we are stressed, our brains secrete less dopamine. Dopamine is partially responsible for muscle and motor control, so if insufficient amounts of dopamine are available, this could lead to erratic muscle movements.
Some scientists believe that personality ‘type’ plays a role in compulsive behavior – particularly teeth-grinding behavior. We know that stress has a role to play in this condition. However, we also know that some very stressed and busy people do not grind their teeth.
This seems to suggest that one’s personality, or one’s perceived ability to cope, may determine how likely they are to develop bruxism. Personality types that are prone to grind their teeth are highly anxious individuals, people with a high sense of responsibility, and people high on the neuroticism scale.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are typically prescribed to treat depression – though they can be used for other conditions, too. Lots of studies have shown that SSRIs can increase the likelihood of jaw clenching.
It’s thought that, like stress, SSRIs can reduce dopamine availability in the brain – thereby affecting motor control in the jaw. SSRIs reduce dopamine levels in the brain because these drugs provide a surplus of serotonin.
Patients shouldn’t be dissuaded from using SSRI’s but rather should speak with their doctor about any concerns or signs of tooth grinding. If tooth grinding is suspected, another drug called buspirone may be prescribed to counteract this behavior.
Cocaine, ecstasy, and other illegal drugs can cause you to clench your jaw and grind your teeth.
Generally, people who grind their teeth when intoxicated place more pressure on the teeth – potentially causing more permanent damage. Bruxism can sometimes persist after the effects of the drug have worn off. Jaw clenching can also be a side-effect of drug withdrawal.
Drinking Lots of Caffeine
Studies have shown that people who drink a lot of coffee are slightly more likely to experience bruxism. Not only that, people who endure mild nocturnal bruxism experience more severe symptoms if they drink coffee near bedtime.
Drinking more than 800 mg of coffee (4 large cups) in 24 hours could make bruxism more likely. People that work long hours or regularly drive long distances should monitor their caffeine intake for this reason.
People with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are three times more likely to clench and grind their teeth throughout the night. At intervals throughout the night, the airways partially constrict, which can cause them to stop breathing for a number of seconds.
Scientists now believe that teeth grinding is the body’s maladaptive, automatic response to this breathing obstruction. In other words, the brain detects a lack of oxygen and responds by engaging the jaw muscles. It’s almost as if your jaw is reminding you to breathe.
It’s not just people with sleep apnea that are prone to developing bruxism. Studies have shown that people with the following sleep conditions are also more likely to grind their teeth:
- Hallucinating just before going to sleep
- Injurious sleep behavior (i.e. kicking during sleep)
- Sleep talking
- Insomnia (perhaps due to its links to stress and anxiety)
- Restless leg syndrome
Degenerative diseases are not likely to cause teeth grinding, but they do often cause jaw clamping.
When people suffer from these diseases, their neural pathways slowly deteriorate. This means they ‘forget’ how to do tasks. Ultimately, they may lose control over their facial movements, which can lead to jaw clenching.
Getting Adult Teeth
When children’s second teeth arrive, it’s quite common for them to clench their jaw, and grind their teeth. Often, this just means they are adjusting to their new ‘bite.’ However, if the grinding persists for more than a few months, or starts to disturb their sleep, you should seek medical advice.
Smoking and Poor Diet
Technically, these are ‘aggravating factors’ rather than causes of bruxism. People who experience moderate bruxism are likely to grind their teeth more heavily if they smoke or eat a poor diet. Not only that, smoking and unhealthy foods can aggravate teeth and gums, making this condition a whole lot worse.
What Causes Daytime Bruxism?
If you think you have bruxism, it’s important to consider whether you’re partaking in this behavior in the daytime or the nighttime. This will give an indication of the underlying cause(s).
About 20% of bruxism cases are experienced in the daytime. Daytime or “awake bruxism” is characterized by a jaw-clenching movement – as opposed to a jaw-grinding motion. Many of us temporarily clench our jaw when we are angry or stressed. However, a diagnosis of daytime bruxism means you repeat this behavior often, and it is impacting the quality of your life.
If you’re clenching your jaw during the day, your behavior has probably been triggered by an external (stressful) event, by taking recreational drugs, or by taking SSRIs. Sufferers of Parkinson’s disease may also experience daytime jaw clenching – though this could also occur in the evening/night, too.
Common side effects of daytime bruxism (jaw clenching) include facial pain, earache, and headache. If it continues for a long time without intervention, teeth may become loose. Daytime bruxism is less likely to wear down the teeth or cause them to break off – this is more likely to occur with nocturnal bruxism.
What Causes Bruxism When Sleeping?
Nocturnal bruxism is often more serious than daytime bruxism and can be more resistant to treatment. The motions associated with nighttime bruxism are jaw clenching and teeth grinding. During the night, the muscles in the jaw contract, and the teeth grind against each other continuously. Sleep bruxism is known to occur during the lighter stages of sleep (REM sleep).
As mentioned, nocturnal bruxism often occurs alongside obstructive sleep apnea and tends to get worse if the sleep apnea is not managed. Like bruxism, obstructive sleep episodes are more likely to occur during light ‘REM’ stages of sleep. It’s thought that, when people with OSA experience a breathing obstruction, lack of oxygen in the brain triggers the jaw to start moving. In addition to jaw grinding, people with sleep apnea are also known to snore or mutter immediately after periods of restricted breathing.
One of the major problems with sleep apnea is that it prevents you from getting restorative sleep. Each time you stop breathing, your brain rouses you (either to a waking state or to a much lighter stage of sleep). So, if your sleep bruxism is associated with sleep apnea, you’re likely to experience intense fatigue.
Besides sleep apnea, stress and anxiety are known to cause some cases of nocturnal bruxism.
Can Bruxism Be Cured?
There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ cure for bruxism. Sometimes, if the cause is not immediately clear, you may have to try a selection of treatments. It’s not always possible to ‘cure’ this condition, but the behavior can usually be managed.
Treatments may involve:
- Mouth Guards or Mouth Splints – Occlusal splints, typically provided by your dentist, can prevent you from clenching your jaw at night. They restrict muscle movement, so your teeth will not be able to grind together. Mouthguards stop the behavior, but they are not able to ‘cure’ the condition in the true sense of the word. For this reason, you might choose to combine them with other forms of treatment.
- Mandibular Advancement Devices – These work in a similar way to occlusal splints, but they are designed to counteract the symptoms of sleep apnea, too.
- Hypnotherapy – According to the Bruxism Association, a small body of research suggests that good-quality hypnotherapy may help cure bruxism for good. Nonetheless, they do admit that the research is still very limited, and this option may not work for everyone.
- Biofeedback – Biofeedback is a type of ‘behavioral training’ that can help to change maladaptive behaviors. There is limited evidence to suggest its usefulness for bruxism.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – If bruxism is attributed to stress and anxiety, it is likely to respond very well to CBT. However, CBT can take a bit of time to work, so should usually be combined with other treatments.
- Meditation – There is lots of evidence to suggest that meditation helps with stress management. It may be a useful tool for some people trying to overcome bruxism.
- Massage – Massaging the body, in general, can help to reduce stress. In addition, massaging the face and jaw may prevent jaw clenching.
- Jaw Exercises – Jaw exercises can help you relax the muscles in your face and jaw. This can relieve the symptoms of bruxism and may prevent you from clenching your jaw at night.
- Magnesium supplements – There is some evidence to suggest that magnesium deficiency leads to poor motor control (especially in the jaw). Some people have had success in treating bruxism with magnesium supplements.
How Teeth Grinding and Clenching Affects Your Health
If damage to the teeth and gums has already occurred, it’s usually possible to repair this damage with dental treatments. What’s more, you can also treat the ‘secondary problems’ caused by bruxism.
With that in mind, let’s discuss 12 medical conditions caused by bruxism, and what can be done to help.
Facial Pain (Leading to Hypertrophy)
It’s common for people with bruxism (both daytime and nocturnal) to experience facial pain and swelling. Specifically, the muscles in their face become tender and inflamed, and it can be hard to open and close their jaw. This is sometimes referred to as “face myalgia.”
If you’ve woken up with a sore face, but you’re not sure whether it’s due to bruxism, consider the location of the soreness. Do you have pain on the sides of the jaw and on the top of the cheekbones? If so, this suggests your masseter muscle is inflamed, which could be a sign of teeth grinding.
Why is facial pain a problem? Well, besides it being a nuisance, facial myalgia can actually lead to muscle hypertrophy. In other words, certain facial muscles can build up so much that an imbalance occurs, and your appearance changes a lot. For example, people who grind their teeth for many years often develop a ‘square jaw.’
What Can Be Done?
If you already have facial myalgia, try holding a cold compress to your face for fast relief. Be sure to apply the compress for at least 10 minutes, holding it firm against the skin.
In addition, there is evidence to suggest that massaging the facial muscles can help to relieve pain and may prevent bruxism in the future – especially if teeth grinding has been caused by stress or anxiety. This is because massage relaxes the masseter muscle.
To massage your masseter muscle, follow these steps:
- Your masseter muscle stretches from the underside of each cheekbone down to the jawline. If you place your thumb or finger underneath your cheekbone, you should be able to locate a pressure point. This is what Painscience calls the ‘Perfect Spot No. 7.’
- You’ll know when you’ve found this spot because you should feel a bit of relief when pressing on it.
- Applying a medium-firm pressure, start massaging this spot with your fingers. Massage this area of your face using circular motions. Some people find this easy to do when lying down on their sides.
- This should provide some relief from myalgia, but also headaches, dizziness, toothache, or any other symptoms related to the jaw region!
- Doing this massage daily will help the jaw feel more relaxed and may prevent future clenching/grinding.
If hypertrophy (a square jaw) did develop, there are procedures that can remove part of the masseter muscle. It would take several years for a muscle imbalance to develop. Nonetheless, it’s best to see your doctor at the first signs of facial myalgia, to prevent your condition from worsening.
Headaches and Nausea
Headaches are a side-effect of bruxism because people who grind their teeth often have tensed or irritated muscles (myalgia). Headaches (as opposed to migraines) are typically caused by muscle tension, so it makes sense that bruxism would cause headaches.
If you experience headaches in the morning, as soon as you wake up, this could signify you’ve been grinding your teeth during the night.
If you grind your teeth regularly, you may become dizzy and lightheaded. When the jaw becomes inflamed, your inner ears can become inflamed too. This is because the jaw hinge is very close to the ear. The inner ear is responsible for helping us keep our balance. As such, jaw disorders can cause a feeling of vertigo.
Interestingly, headaches induced by teeth grinding could be associated with low magnesium levels. A study published by NCBI found that magnesium supplementation eradicated a headache caused by bruxism and cured the bruxism entirely (over a period of months). Separate studies have shown that magnesium helps to relax muscles, particularly when absorbed through the skin.
What Can Be Done?
If you’ve already sustained a headache, you can gain temporary relief by staying hydrated and using a hot or cold compress. Pain medication will also be useful but take advice from your pharmacist regarding the type of medication that is suitable for this type of headache.
In the long run, learning how to relax the muscles should help you alleviate headaches, and perhaps prevent them from occurring in the first place. To promote muscle relaxation, try practicing the masseter muscle massage each night before you go to bed. In addition, you could try consuming more dietary magnesium or supplementing with magnesium chloride hexahydrate (liquid magnesium). To relax your muscles, try the following facial exercises:
- Open your Jaw– Try letting your jaw relax as much as possible. Imagine your jaw has dropped – with surprise or offense. Try holding your jaw in this position for 10 minutes (stop if you feel pain). This should help you retrain your jaw to stay relaxed.
- Slur your Speech – Imagine you are intoxicated and you have to say everything much slower. In other words, try speaking out of your lower jaw or throat and avoid using the muscles at the top of the mouth.
To see results, try these exercises daily, for at least a month. Some dentists recommend against chewing gum as it encourages too much jaw activity and stops your jaw from relaxing at night.
Stiff Shoulders and Neck Pain
Most people would not associate shoulder or neck pain with a jaw condition. Nonetheless, according to a review on Wiley Online, it’s quite common for people with bruxism to get a stiff neck and shoulders.
Neck pain can be worsened by sleeping in an unhealthy position. Moreover, as we’ve discussed, teeth grinding often occurs in people with sleep apnea, especially as they enter periods of disrupted breathing.
OSA can be aggravated by being overweight and sleeping in certain positions because some positions encourage the airways to constrict. For this reason, anyone with sleep apnea should consider their sleeping position to improve their symptoms (and prevent secondary conditions like bruxism).
What Can Be Done?
If you don’t already, you should consider sleeping on your side – as opposed to your back. Studies have shown that this can help improve the symptoms of sleep apnea and neck and shoulder strain. If you must sleep on your back, try to support the neck’s natural ‘c’ curve by using a supportive pillow at the correct height.
In addition, if you are overweight, losing weight will almost certainly improve the symptoms of sleep apnea, thereby preventing secondary conditions such as bruxism.
Finally, you could consider sleeping with an oral appliance. A mandibular advancement guard will treat sleep apnea and prevent teeth grinding. This type of mouthguard aligns the upper and lower arches of the jaw and keeps the airways open. It can be difficult to get used to at first, but many people find this system helpful in the long run. This type of system keeps the head, jaw, and neck supported so will reduce pain in the neck and shoulders.
Ontalgia (earache) occasionally occurs as a side effect of bruxism. Various nerves from the cranial regions and cervical regions terminate inside the ear. As such, the pain felt in the ear can originate from a number of different locations.
When we have an earache, we’re most likely to visit the doctor. A recent review published by Cambridge Core highlights the need for doctors and dentists to work together when diagnosing and treating secondary ontalgia caused by bruxism, as it can often go undiagnosed by doctors.
This is partly because earache can occur quite soon after someone starts to grind their teeth. As such, there may only be very minimal visible damage to the teeth (if any). Earaches caused by bruxism appear to be a lot worse in the morning, and the pain they cause radiates into the jaw or temples.
What Can Be Done?
If you have an unexplained earache, you should always see your doctor and/or dentist for further investigation. In the first instance, you may be asked to sleep with a mouth guard, to see if this makes any difference to your ear pain.
In the short term, you may also be offered botulinum toxin injections. Studies have shown that these injections can provide immediate relief to earaches, facial pain, and headaches brought on by bruxism.
Teeth grinding can be loud – as loud as snoring in some cases. The muscles in the jaw are incredibly strong and can produce a lot of force when required. So, anyone sharing a bed with you will probably be disturbed by this noise.
The relationship between bruxism and poor-quality sleep is well recognized -– especially if you add sleep apnea into the mix. Evidence shows that people with sleep apnea and bruxism are likely to have more REM (light) sleep than the rest of the population.
If most of your sleep is REM sleep, you will not feel well-rested at all. As such, it’s no surprise that people with worn-down teeth often report tiredness, low mood, or chronic fatigue.
What Can Be Done?
Ideally, you should improve your sleep hygiene to make sure you’re getting enough good-quality, slow-wave sleep. Teeth grinding is less likely to occur during periods of deep, slow-wave sleep. This has led some scientists to predict that improving sleep hygiene may lessen the chances of bruxism because we’d spend less time in ‘lighter’ stages of sleep.
Firstly, avoid stimulants like tea, coffee, and cigarettes after midday. Additionally, try going to bed at the same time every day, and sleep in a dark, comfortable environment that is free of electronics.
There is currently not enough evidence to conclude that improving your sleep hygiene will prevent bruxism. Nevertheless, sleep hygiene, at the very least, should help you feel more rested.
Tooth Sensitivity and Tooth Loss
A toothache can occur if you grind your teeth or clench your jaw. Long-term daytime bruxism (jaw clenching) may weaken your teeth and increase the likelihood of them falling out. Teeth grinding (nighttime bruxism) is more likely to wear down the teeth, causing them to become very sensitive.
Grinding motions can damage the protective enamel of the tooth, leaving the nerve endings dangerously exposed. It can take many years of grinding to wear the teeth down. However, you might notice some early signs of enamel damage after a couple of months.
Early signs of enamel damage include– a sharp, tingling sensation in the teeth, and an inability to tolerate hot or cold foods. The teeth towards the back of the mouth (molars) are most likely to become damaged by bruxism.
What Can Be Done?
One of the problems with treating daytime bruxism (i.e. jaw clenching) is that wearing a mouth guard or mouth splint is not always appropriate. If bruxism is occurring mostly in the daytime, CBT or hypnotherapy may be more useful treatments. Clearly, it’s important to intervene as soon as possible to prevent the teeth from becoming weak and falling out prematurely.
If teeth have become sensitized due to grinding, there are various things you can do to prevent further damage and pain. Consider these tips:
- Avoid sugary and acidic foods; If you must eat these foods, you should combine them with the main meal
- Drink lots of water
- Ask your dentist to recommend toothpaste and mouthwash specifically for sensitive teeth. Your dentist may advise using a fluoride gel or rinse. In addition, they may apply a substance to your teeth to seal exposed dentine
- Choose a toothbrush with medium or soft bristles and avoid electric toothbrushes. Change your brush every 3 months
- Chew your food slowly and opt for softer foods where possible
- Never bleach your teeth or use an abrasive whitening toothpaste
- Try not to smoke
If you’ve already developed sensitivity in your teeth, it’s vital you visit your dentist regularly, so they can detect any further damage. As a last resort, teeth that are heavily worn down due to bruxism can be remedied with dental crowns or veneers.
Fillings Break Off
If teeth grinding becomes compulsive, fillings are likely to become damaged. Fillings are less secure than our regular teeth, so it makes sense that these would become dislodged first.
Indeed, common places to have fillings are between the molar or premolar teeth (towards the back of the mouth). This area of the mouth is most likely to be impacted by grinding or clenching.
However, do keep in mind that fillings come loose for all sorts of reasons. For example, if the cavity is an awkward shape this could cause the filling to break off easily. Or, if the filling is located in a baby or ‘first’ tooth, it will probably come loose very easily.
What Can Be Done?
If your filling does come loose, and you’ve been diagnosed with bruxism, your dentist will usually offer you a filling with a bonded or composite inlay. This strengthens the filling and reduces the chances of it becoming dislodged by other teeth.
Inflamed Gums and Pulpitis
Pulpitis occurs when the tooth’s pulp (nerves, connective tissue) becomes inflamed. This is usually due to a bacterial infection. Bacteria are more likely to enter the tooth’s pulp if the teeth or gums are damaged. Unfortunately, teeth grinding can erode the teeth and cause the gums to recede, leaving you susceptible to pulpitis.
Pulpitis can cause a throbbing sensation in the tooth, but it does not always cause immediate pain. Sometimes, it can be difficult for the sufferer to locate which tooth is infected. If caught early, pulpitis can usually be treated. However, sometimes it is irreversible and may lead to nerve damage – or a ‘dead tooth.’
What Can Be Done?
At the first sign of bruxism, it’s a good idea to purchase a medical mouthguard, to prevent teeth grinding. This will help protect the enamel of your teeth and prevent bacterial infections. At the same time, follow the instructions above regarding how to protect sensitive teeth.
You should also avoid smoking at all costs as this will increase the bacteria in your mouth, leaving you susceptible to pulpitis.
If you have developed irreversible pulpitis (i.e. the pulp is damaged beyond repair), your dentist will need to operate on the tooth. They may choose to extract the pulp and replace it with a material called ‘gutta-percha.’ Alternatively, they may choose to extract the tooth entirely.
An abscess in the mouth is usually caused by a bacterial infection. Grinding the teeth can lead to an abscess, particularly if it goes on for a long period of time, and the enamel of the tooth wears down. If pulpitis is left untreated, it can turn into an abscess. Symptoms include:
- Pain in the mouth that worsens when you lie down
- Extreme sensitivity to hot and cold
- Foul-smelling breath
- Pain that spreads across one whole side of the face
What Can Be Done?
An abscess requires emergency treatment. If you don’t have immediate access to your dentist, you should go to the emergency room.
A dentist may need to remove the tooth, carry out a root canal surgery, or drain some of the fluid. They’ll probably also prescribe you some strong antibiotics to stop the infection from spreading.
If you have diabetes or a weakened immune system, you are particularly susceptible to abscesses. As such, you must not delay treatment for bruxism.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder
According to the American Academy of Craniofacial Pain, the temporomandibular joint is the most unique and hardworking joint in the body. This joint is actually two joints, situated on either side of the face, and connected by the jawbone.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) is essentially caused by inflammation of the jawbone (i.e. teeth grinding). Because the joint is actually made up of two joints (one on each side of the face), the pain felt on the right side of the jaw could actually be caused by inflammation on the left side of the jaw – and vice versa.
Sufferers will TMJ often find it difficult to open and close their mouths and may experience a popping or clicking sound when trying to do so. They may also have swollen glands.
TMJ is not a dangerous condition but it can make life difficult. For example, some people find it difficult to eat proper mouthfuls of food. Others will find the popping and clicking sound disconcerting and may not get a proper night’s sleep because of it. Besides teeth grinding, other causes of TMJ include:
- Severe stress
- An overbite or an irregular bite
- Severe physical trauma
- Joint wear and tear (old age)
What Can be Done?
If you feel you have TMJ as a result of bruxism, you should see your doctor and dentist for an evaluation. A dentist will be able to examine your teeth for any early signs of erosion caused by bruxism.
TMJ can be a long-term condition. This means, even if you stop grinding your teeth, you may still experience some jaw pain and stiffness. If that is the case, there are things you can do to alleviate the pain. For example:
- Eat soft foods that your jaw can manage
- Use a hot or cold compress, particularly before bed, to soothe the jaw
- Facial massage
- Do not yawn too wide
- Do not chew your food aggressively and do not chew gum
- Don’t use your front teeth to bite and chew food
Tinnitus is a ringing in the ear, that can range from barely audible to deafening. About a third of people with bruxism experience tinnitus at some point or another. People with TMJ are also likely to experience tinnitus. It can get a lot worse during periods of stress.
As we’ve discussed bruxism can cause an earache, because there are many nerve endings in the ear that originate elsewhere in the face. In addition, the grinding and chewing motion of bruxism can put a strain on the temporomandibular joint which seems to create noises in some people’s ears.
What Can Be Done?
There are no specific treatments for tinnitus. If the tinnitus is assumed to be caused by bruxism, the first line of treatment is usually a mouthguard. Muscle relaxation exercises may also be recommended. Furthermore, socializing and distraction activities are often recommended as tinnitus can get worse if you spend a lot of time alone.
Stress and Fatigue
Stress is thought to be the leading cause of bruxism, but it’s surely an effect of this condition, too.
For example, the sleep disruption caused by this condition is likely to lead to fatigue and stress. Not only that, the mouthguards used to treat this condition can be stressful to use. In addition, tooth damage is likely to lead to poor self-image, which can become a further source of stress and anxiety.
What Can Be Done?
It’s crucial to break the stress-bruxism-stress cycle. First of all, show yourself that you are taking control of your situation. Make an appointment with your doctor and talk to your family members about your condition. Also, consider joining a support group for bruxism sufferers.
Diet, exercise, and social support are proven methods for managing stress and improving self-image. Exercise may be particularly useful for treating bruxism because it may encourage you to relax your muscles.
How Can Bruxism Be Prevented?
Now we’ve discussed the secondary problems caused by bruxism, let’s conclude by discussing how to prevent teeth grinding in the future.
- If you suspect you have a sleep disorder (such as sleep apnea), get a formal diagnosis and start treatment immediately
- Cut down all stimulants (tobacco, caffeine, sugar) – especially before bedtime
- Improve your sleep position (sleep on your side) and practice good sleep hygiene
- Do muscle relaxing exercises or massages on a daily basis
- Manage your stress levels – whether you try socializing, meditation, or cognitive behavioral therapy - try to keep stress under control.
Make sure you visit your dentist at appropriate intervals. For a long time, we’ve been told that visiting the dentist once every 6 months is satisfactory. However, recent advice from the American Dental Association states you must go as often as your dentist determines necessary.
So, to prevent bruxism from developing, try to keep communication lines open with your dentist, and stick to your scheduled appointments. You’ll sleep much better at night if you do.