Bruxism: A Psychosomatic Disorder

· October 24, 2016
Affected individuals generally aren't aware that they have bruxism, because they unconsciously grind their teeth. Generally it's someone else who notices this psychosomatic disorder.

The habit of grinding your teeth involuntarily, especially at night, is a very common problem in adolescents, although some adults do suffer from it as well. This psychosomatic disorder called bruxism can cause headaches, jaw pain and ear aches, along with damaged teeth.

In this article we are going to about more about this psychosomatic disorder, which is worth an extra look.

What you should know about this psychosomatic disorder

Bruxism can develop at any moment in life, although most patients are between 17 and 20 years of age when this habits begins.

In regards to remission, it can disappear just as it started (without treatment). Or it could last for several years, in which case you’re dealing with chronic bruxism.

This habit generally starts in relation to periods of anxiety, genetic factors, and even allergies.  The most accepted theory, however, is that stress is what unleashes it.

It does not develop because of intestinal parasites, unlike what some people believe.

It can be divided into different types:

Centric bruxism


This happens when the individual tightly clenches their teeth, causing neck pain. The premolars are most damaged, and one common symptom is tension headaches.

Excentric bruxism

This refers to the grinding of upper and lower teeth, creating noises and fast jaw movements.  This wears teeth down (especially the incisors) and could cause teeth to break and fall out.

Nocturnal bruxism

This takes place while you’re sleeping, and those that suffer from it don’t realize they do it.  It appears during sleep stages 2 and 3, not during REM.  If you sleep 8 hours a night, each episode will last between 15 and 40 minutes.

Waking, or day, bruxism

Although individuals don’t notice it, they grind or clench their teeth very strongly when under pressure at work or school.  This is related to work stress and personal problems.

Why is bruxism a psychosomatic disorder?

Grinding your teeth is one way a lot of people find to release tension caused by obligations, pressure or difficulties in life.

Although a lot of people think bruxism can be treated (and cured) after a few visits to the dentist, you actually need to see a psychologist.

The truth is, you need an approach from both medical specialists.

The dentist is in charge of improving or treating worn down or broken teeth, while the therapist can try to find the reason you have developed the habit.

For this, they’ll focus, of course, on stressful situations, anxiety or worry that the patient is experiencing.


Individuals suffering from bruxism aren’t aware of their habit, nor of the cause.  This is considered to be a psychosomatic disorder and sometimes the diagnosis is easy, but the treatment is not so much.

Because it’s caused by periods of stress, it could also be accompanied by other symptoms, like headaches or neck pain, for example.

The University of Chile has investigated bruxism in relation to people’s lives.

They have shown one can suffer from bruxism for several years, experiencing periods of increased frequency or intensity, in relationship to pressure or problems the individual is facing.

The good news is that once it is detected, family or friends can listen for the grinding, or the affected individual can begin to analyze symptoms, and can seek psychological treatment.

Therapy will help the individual to verbalize his/her fears, discomfort and worries.  This helps them to work with these issues so they don’t influence their daily life, thereby preventing a relapse into bruxism.

Treatment and prevention of bruxism


Among global and multi-disciplinary treatments of bruxism, you’ll find the following:

Dental treatment

Occlusal adjustments or a bite splint. The bite splint is placed in your mouth when getting ready to go to bed. This simply prevents teeth from breaking or becoming damaged, but it does not get rid of the habit.

Psychological treatment


It is important that the individual goes to therapy to determine what is causing their bruxism.  Changing your attitude when facing problems or obligations is the first step for avoiding this problem.

Pharmaceutical treatment

In bruxism cases that involve extreme stress, doctors can use tranquilizers or muscle relaxants, along with anxiolytics.

Physical treatment

When the facial pain from clenching your teeth tightly becomes too painful, therapists can offer massage or relaxation techniques for the neck and head.

Palliative treatment can also be used, however it does not prevent nor reduce bruxism.

Acupuncture treatment

Therapy using small needles to improve certain emotions, or to channel energy, can be used to relax a patient and prevent dental clenching while sleeping.

Relaxation treatment

Yoga, meditation and tai chi can be extremely useful for someone who suffers from bruxism.  These disciplines relax the body, calm the mind, and reduce stress, nerves and anxiety.

And lastly, to prevent new episodes of grinding or putting pressure on your teeth, you can:

  • Practice sports that induce deeper sleep.
  • Take naps during the afternoon.
  • Do recreational activities, like listening to music or reading, before bed.
  • Reduce caffeine consumption.
  • Take relaxing baths at night.
  • Apply moist heat to the face and neck.