What Happens When You Grind Your Teeth

Teeth grinding at night or during the day is an unhealthy habit that can cause major problems with your teeth, jaw and overall health. Millions of people worldwide suffer from bruxism or grinding of teeth

It’s tough enough fighting against the day-to-day grind of life, but if you happen to have bruxism – that can be an extra battle. Here, we will discuss the effects of bruxism, so you know what to watch for!

What Is Bruxism

what is bruxism

At some point in their life, the majority of people grind and clench their teeth. Bruxism, the medical word for “tooth grinding,” describes this behaviour. It’s most common at night, although it can also happen during the day. Often, the person is unaware that they are engaging in the activity. A little bit of teeth-grinding isn’t likely to cause any harm. On the other hand, Bruxism can lead to tooth decay and other oral health issues if it is done regularly.

There is currently no specific answer to the cause of bruxism, but experts believe it is a combination of physical, psychological and hereditary elements that lead to the condition. Bruxism can be classified into two categories:

  • Awake bruxism happens when you grind your teeth unconsciously during the day. When people are nervous, upset, or trying to concentrate, they tend to clench their teeth.

  • Insomnia and sleep apnea can cause people to clench their teeth at night, leading to sleep bruxism. It is possible to develop bruxism as a result of hallucinations or unpleasant dreams.

Consequences or Problems With Teeth Grinding

consequences or problems with teeth grinding

Bruxism has a wide range of effects on individuals. Short-term impacts of bruxism are common, but more serious long-term problems can become permanent for those who suffer from the condition.

Eventually, untreated symptoms in the short term can lead to more severe ones. As soon as you notice any symptoms, it is important to see a dentist for treatment right away. Not only to treat your bruxism but also to help prevent tooth loss and decay.

In the long run, bruxism can be destructive to your teeth and gums. Some of the long-term effects of bruxism are:

  • Damaged Teeth
    Your dentist can tell whether you grind your teeth during a routine dental visit. Patients who have had bruxism for a long period have flattened teeth with an even, square appearance. Teeth wear down and get shorter. The longer bruxism is left untreated, the more visible it becomes.

    Furthermore, grinding your teeth can harm dental restorations such as crowns or fillings, causing them to fail and require replacement.

  • Temporomandibular Disorders
    The temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which connects your lower jaw to your skull, allows your jaw to move. Bruxism puts strain on the TMJ, which can lead to dysfunction and chronic pain.

    TMJ symptoms include headaches, muscle tension in the face or neck, pain when eating or speaking, and difficulty opening your mouth completely.

  • Tooth Sensitivity
    Grinding your teeth wears down and prematurely ages teeth, so the protective coating of enamel can also be worn away. There is no way to repair enamel after it has been lost. The softer tissue gets exposed, allowing more harmful germs to enter your tooth and cause cavities.

    Hot and cold temperatures can access the root of your tooth without the protective covering of enamel, making some foods and drinks unpleasant at best and painful at worst.

  • Gum Damage
    Grinding your teeth puts pressure on your gums and the connective tissue that holds your teeth in place. When the connective tissue that supports teeth is destroyed, it might loosen your teeth. Grinding your teeth can cause gum tissue to become inflamed, red, or irritated.

How is Bruxism Diagnosed?

Dentists can recognize if a patient grinds or clenches their teeth in one of two ways:

The first is to ask whether their gnashing of teeth awakens their spouse or partner. This unsettling sound of enamel grinding against enamel is startling and alarming. Patients frequently report that their spouse or companion frequently wakes them up, intending to stop the grinding.

The second way a dentist may tell if a patient grinds or clenches their teeth in their sleep is to ask if their face and chewing muscles are tired or sore when they wake up.

The most evidence of bruxism is when a patient arrives at the dentist with a cracked or chipped tooth. If we dig deeper into the situation, we may discover symptoms such as:

  • Headaches
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)
  • Muscle facial pain
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Sleeping problems

Bruxism is difficult for patients to self-diagnose, mostly because they are often unaware that they are grinding. As a result, dentists look for indicators of tooth damage and ask the appropriate questions to care for the patient effectively.

Treatment of Bruxism

In many cases, treatment is really not necessary. Many children outgrow bruxism without treatment, and many adults do not grind or clench their teeth in a way that necessitates therapy. However, if the problem is serious, various dental treatments may prevent further tooth damage and relieve jaw pain or discomfort.

Consult your dentist to determine which choice is best for you.

Dental approaches

If you or your child suffers from bruxism, your doctor may advise you on protecting or improving your teeth. Although these procedures may help avoid or correct tooth wear, they may not be enough to stop bruxism:

  • Mouthguards and splints.
    These are designed to keep teeth apart to prevent the damage caused by clenching and grinding. They can be made of hard acrylic or soft materials and worn on either your upper or lower teeth.

  • Dental correction.
    In severe cases, when tooth wear has caused sensitivity or the inability to chew properly, your dentist may need to modify your teeth’s chewing surfaces or use crowns to fix the damage.

Other approaches

One or more of the following approaches may help relieve bruxism:

  • Stress or anxiety management.
    If you grind your teeth due to stress, you may avoid the problem by adopting relaxation techniques such as meditation. If the bruxism is caused by anxiety, seeking help from a competent therapist or counsellor may be beneficial.

  • Behaviour change.
    You may be able to adjust your behaviour if you realise you have bruxism by practising proper mouth and jaw position. Ask your dentist to demonstrate the ideal position for your mouth and jaw.

  • Biofeedback.
    If you’re having trouble changing chewing behaviours, you can benefit from biofeedback, a technique that teaches you to control muscle activity in your jaw using monitoring procedures and equipment.

Final Thoughts

If you wake up with headaches and/or an aching jaw, you may be grinding your teeth while sleeping. A simple dental checkup can identify whether you’re prematurely aging your teeth due to bruxism. There is a treatment for this unhealthy dental problem; therefore, obtaining care as soon as possible can significantly impact the condition of your teeth.

If you or someone you know suffers from bruxism, we recommend making an appointment at Peel Dental Studio. Diagnosis and treatment of bruxism require an assessment and treatment plan from a trustworthy dental specialist. Regular preventative care is your best choice for reducing the risk of bruxism and other dental health issues.

The relief from teeth grinding and clenching is finally here. Peel Dental Studio can help you get your life back on track with successful bruxism dental treatments that are safe, effective -and affordable! To learn more about what we have available, we would be delighted to review your choices and suggest the best action for you. Please call 9535-4900 today!

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Peel Dental Studio


Dr. Bailey formerly served on the Australian Dental Association as President, Vice President Treasurer and Country Councillor. He was on the Australian Dental Association Federal Council and has always been keen to give back to the profession that has been his life. He has tutored student dentists at the Oral Health Centre in Perth.