What is Bruxism? (grinding your teeth while sleeping)

December 5, 2008

in Bruxism, Sleeping Disorders

Help Your Teeth Avoid The Grind

Grinding one’s teeth is natural when one gets angry or tries to suppress a negative emotion. However, when grinding of teeth occurs involuntarily in sleep then one is surely a prime suspect of bruxism.

Bruxism is nothing but the medical term for unconscious grinding of teeth during sleep. Grinding and clenching of teeth occurs due to causes that are yet to be fully ascertained by research scientists and dentists. That it develops out of stress and anxiety has not yet been proven. Clenching of teeth occurs when a person unconsciously clamps together the top and bottom teeth tightly. Grinding takes place when the top and bottom teeth rub against one another producing a distinct sound which often disturbs the sleeping partners.

Bruxism or grinding teeth in sleep can have serious to mild implications. The symptoms are in most cases easily visible to the patients themselves. This is because a person who has been through a session of grinding teeth in the night wakes up the next morning with pain in the gums, headaches or tooth aches. In fact, in very serious instances it can cause jaw disorders, jaw pain, soreness, severe headaches, earaches, damaged teeth, less sleep and other dental problems. Unchecked bruxism may break down enamel and reduces teeth to stumps. Instead of being dressed with white enamel covers, one often sees yellowish and coarser versions. Absence of enamel enables bacteria to penetrate into the softer part of the teeth and produce cavities. In course of time, the condition may lead to bridges, grooves, root canal implant, partial dentures and even complete dentures. Very long term Bruxism may alter or change the facial appearance of a person. Yet, unlike other diseases it is not life threatening as it involves the teeth only.

Sleep Bruxism often exerts extraordinary power on teeth, gums and joints. Experts estimate that the force exerted by bruxism is three times the force generated during chewing. Some even says that it is ten times as powerful. They point out that it is mainly because mind under unconscious control exerts far more superior strength than mind in active control. During chewing, in a conscious state of human mind, the mind passes out only a part of the strength for teeth while during Bruxism the force is entirely exerted on the teeth only and nothing else.

Bruxism or grinding teeth in sleep involves the following treatment. Experts suggest behavior modification that tells a patient how to rest his tongue, teeth and lips properly, using of teeth grinding mouthguards and getting biofeedback with the help of an electronic device for ascertaining muscle activities and uses of headbands. Of these, the use of teeth grinding mouthguards is more prevalent as they tend to arrest the very grinding process during one’s deep sleep and are easier to use.

Many people who are aware of this condition in them have lost precious sleep in an effort to try to find a remedy to this unusual condition. Since it is not a fatal disease its occurrence can definitely be reduced and even stopped if one consults a good dentist.

Bruxism Facts

1) exert as much as 550 pounds of force per square inch (thats more than normal chewing by about 10 times)
2)Bruxism is responsible for chipping the edges of your teeth and sometimes complete breakage
3) Over 80% of people grind their teeth and do not realize it (women do it more than men)
4) It’s most common at night time.
5) People who grind their teeth do it on average 35 minutes for every hour they sleep.

Repairing damage

If your teeth are damaged they can be repaired by replacing the worn crown of the tooth with prosthetic or fake crowns. Materials used to make crowns vary as some are less prone to breaking than others and can last longer. Crowns are now becoming more and more common and work well for bruxism related restorations

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

lilbit December 7, 2008 at 4:11 pm

My 14 yr old son has been grinding his teeth for years. The tops of his molars are flat now. I worry about what it`s going to do to his teeth. After reading this article I think I need to talk to my hubby more about this problem. He is my stepson so I don`t have a lot of say where he is concerned. The dentist notices it when I take him for cleanings but they have never said anything about what I can do or what his grinding may do to his teeth. I`m wondering now why they haven`t said anything. I have seen those mouth guards in ads. I should talk to my hubby and my stepsons mom and see if they think that would be a good idea for him. I`ll have to show them this article so they know that I`m not just talking about something I know nothing about. Very good article. It just may come in handy for me and my stepson.


Jen December 8, 2008 at 2:32 am

Wow. I always knew I clenched my jaw and grinded my teeth in my sleep, but I never dreamed it was exerting a whopping 550 pounds of pressure. No wonder my jaw hurts so bad in the morning!

This is great information. Thanks for sharing. I’m going to try some of the behavior modification tips right away.


bubble December 8, 2008 at 3:39 pm

My husband is a frequent teeth grinder. I will have to look into perhaps getting him some sort of mouthguard. He never looses any sleep through doing it, I think it is just me who is suffering.


steph June 17, 2010 at 10:49 am

I grind my teeth in my sleep also, but my boyfriend has also mentioned clicking my jaw more so, backwards and forwards and side to side, I also do this during the day when extremely tired. My jaw aches daily should I speak to my dentist?


admin June 17, 2010 at 9:11 pm

A dentist is probably the best place to start. There are a wide variety of treatments available for bruxism, and your dentist will be able to advise you on the most suitable.


Joe July 31, 2010 at 2:02 pm

I have this problem, but it was solved by using a CPAP machine and mask, which keeps the mouth and airway inflated during sleep. When not using the CPAP, however, I use athletic teeth protectors. You can buy them for a few dollars at Big 5 Sporting Goods and other places. You heat them in a cup of water and mold them to your teeth pattern. A dentist will sell you their professional version of this, but it will cost you a lot more.


parabolas August 26, 2010 at 3:57 pm

I have a strange problem. Sometimes when I’m sleeping my jaw begins to
rapidly open and close. It’s just like one of those chattering teeth
gag toys. It wakes me up and I cant stop it. I usually shove a part
of my blanket in my mouth to pad my teeth because it is painful.
Any ideas of what this is?


admin August 30, 2010 at 5:49 pm

I found this, which you may find useful:

“Jaw tremor is usually due to chills and cold weather. Tremor in the nights might also be attributed to Parkinson’s diseases. Tremor is also indicative of withdrawal of alcohol, peripheral neuropathy, orthostatic tumor and cerebellar disease.

A rhythmic movement, which is involuntary resulting in movement on a fixed plane of space, is referred to as a tremor. It is at times, hardly noticeable, whereas serious and disabling at the other times. Based on the frequency, tremors are classified into three types, namely, postural tremor, rest tremors and action tremors.

The frequency of postural tremors is 3 to 6 Hz. This generally occurs, when the limb is placed against gravity. When the muscles are involuntarily activated and when the limbs are supported, rest tremors are seen to occur. Action tremors are seen to occur in any kind of movement between 3 to 10 Hz frequencies.

Antibiotics are the best modes of treatment. Botulinum toxin is also an effective remedy for jaw tremors. Beta blockers, anticholinergics, thalamotomy and isoniazids are recommended based on the frequency of tremors. Visit a movement disorder specialist or a person specialized in jaw tremor.”


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