Signs of Bruxism (teeth grinding)


Bruxism (BRUK-siz-um) is a common dental complaint which affects 30 to 40 million people in the U.S. alone. It occurs when you grind your teeth or clench your jaw, often unconsciously in your sleep.

At Bell Dental, PA, Dr. Katie Bell works with patients to develop a specialized treatment plan to address the causes of bruxism and find the best way to preserve teeth.

About Bruxism

The only time your teeth are supposed to touch is when you swallow. Even when you chew, there is food between your teeth. Simply put, if you catch yourself with your teeth together, you are clenching. Even lightly holding or rubbing your teeth together can, over time, fatigue your muscles, wear down your teeth, and potentially cause problems in your jaw joints.

Grinding your teeth is an even more destructive process that is triggered by an imbalanced bite. When teeth do not align or come together properly, your body can potentially react by unconsciously clenching or grinding. Back teeth are designed to support a tremendous amount of pressure along their long axis. Like a hammer and nail, if the forces are in the right direction, your teeth will remain stable. However, if they hit on an angle, they can fracture, split, or become loose.

Symptoms of Bruxism

The most common symptom that patients exhibit when they have bruxism is a headache, especially after a night of teeth grinding. However, there are a number of other signs that patients who have bruxism sometimes exhibit, including:

  • Muscle aches
  • Enlarged facial muscles or swelling
  • Discomfort of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ); locked jaw that won’t open or close completely
  • Shoulder and neck stiffness
  • Worn tooth enamel, exposing deeper layers of your tooth
  • Increased tooth pain or sensitivity
  • Ear pain
  • Facial pain
  • Sleep disorders
  • A grinding sound at night (possibly loud enough to wake your sleep partner)
  • Clicking or popping in the jaw
  • Dull headache
  • damage from chewing on the insides of your cheek
  • Sleep disruption

Eventually, those with bruxism have teeth that are adversely affected by the condition. You may notice abnormal wear or mobility, and your teeth could even begin to fracture. Some patients’ bruxism is so severe that they lose teeth.

*If you notice that your child is grinding his or her teeth — or has other signs or symptoms of bruxism — be sure to mention it at your child’s next dental appointment.

Treatments for Bruxism

Several possible treatment options are available for bruxism. Before recommending treatment Dr. Bell  will perform a thorough examination to determine what is causing your particular signs and symptoms. Sometimes custom-made nocturnal orthotics are the best solution to protect your teeth. A properly designed nocturnal orthotic can protect your teeth from grinding and reduce pain in your jaw muscle and temporomandibular joint. Changes in symptoms with one of these appliances can tell us a lot about your problem, confirm the diagnosis, and help us develop a definitive solution. Nocturnal orthotics, however, only work while they are being worn. 

Schedule Your Appointment at Bell Dental, PA Today

If you wake up in the morning with sore teeth or an achy jaw, you may be exhibiting signs of bruxism. Dr. Bell can provide effective treatment options that can not only lessen your painful symptoms but also prevent further tooth damage caused by clenching or grinding.

If you’re looking for a local Frederick dentist who offers treatment for teeth grinding, schedule a consultation with Bell Dental, PA today.