What Is Bruxism and How to Detect It?

Bruxism, or grinding your teeth, can happen during the day or night. In both cases, the symptoms are similar; however, they can have different causes. Keep reading to discover what this disorder is all about, and how you can treat it.
What Is Bruxism and How to Detect It?

Last update: 12 May, 2021

Many people wake up each day with pain in their face or head. Without being aware of it, they may be clenching their jaw and grinding their teeth, especially when they’re sleeping. Do you know what bruxism is? In this article, we’ll tell you all about it.

What is bruxism?

According to a publication in the Journal of International Oral Health, bruxism is a problem with the temporomandibular joint, which sits between the temporal bone and the jaw, and helps the jaw to move.

In fact, it helps with opening and closing the mouth and with lateral movements. This joint is related to dental positioning and the neuromuscular system, making the actions we carry out for chewing, swallowing, and speaking possible.

Specialists define the disorder in this joint by changes to the jaw muscles and the nearby structures. These can cause damage to the joint itself and the muscles that join the jaw to the temporal bone.

In a similar vein, the joining part between the cartilaginous disc and the bit of the jaw bone that uses it (the condyle) becomes compromised in different levels of severity, showing the development of the disorder.

Among the most common causes for this disorder, we can find:

  • Muscular pain
  • Asymmetrical skeleton
  • Arthritis
  • Degenerative disorders
  • Inflammatory illnesses that affect the temporomandibular joints
  • Stress
  • Misalignment or incorrect relation between the teeth (malocclusion)

Bruxism, or teeth grinding, can cause facial pain and dental wear. It’s also related to teeth sensitivity, headaches, and tension.


The symptoms of bruxism, or teeth grinding, vary from patient to patient. However, there are some characteristics of this disorder that aid diagnosis. According to information from the Mayo Clinic, these include the following:

  • Constant head and neck pain
  • Facial pain and dental wear
  • Grinding or squeezing the teeth
  • Having flat, fractured, broken, or loose teeth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Ear pain without actually having an ear problem
  • Biting the inside of the cheek
  • Changes to sleep patterns

How can we detect it?

To receive a precise diagnosis for bruxism and the affected joint, the specialist will do multiple tests. For example, they may make models of your mouth, and take x-rays, or MRIs. Generally speaking, these allow the specialist to assess the disc-condyle area.

Once specialists have detected the problem, it’s essential you begin treatment. Doing otherwise can reduce your life quality and increase the risks of needing more care in the future. The treatment for this disorder can become more complicated over time if you don’t treat it properly. For that reason, it’s fundamental you visit your dentist if you show any of the warning signs.

Types of bruxism, or teeth grinding

This disorder can affect people during the day, or at night. Both types of bruxism can have similar symptoms.

  • Day-time bruxism is related to external psychosocial or environmental stimuli.
  • Night-time bruxism is a muscular disorder that causes the jaw to move involuntarily and grind the teeth whilst the person is sleeping.

How can we treat bruxism?

Information published in National Center for Biotechnology Information suggests that bruxism treatment varies depending on what causes it. For that reason, to get started you must get a diagnosis. Once the doctor has detected the problem, you can deal with it with the following treatments:

Anti-inflammatory drugs

One of the most traditional options is taking medication. Among the most commonly used medication for treating bruxism, we find painkillers and anti-inflammatories. These help to reduce inflammation and pain in those suffering from this disorder.

A hand with tablets.
Specialists usually prescribe anti-inflammatories as part of the treatment for bruxism or grinding teeth. However, other therapeutic options may be necessary to correct it.

Dental discharge splint

This device helps to reposition the condyle bones to their centric relationship position and progressively relax the muscles. Similarly, it reduces the patient’s habit of grinding their teeth and protects the teeth from wear, improving their quality of sleep.

Specialists make the splints specifically for each patient, to use as they sleep. This is the only treatment that can truly correct the bruxism symptoms.

Visit a physiotherapist to stop you from grinding your teeth

With the help of a professional physiotherapist, you can work on a series of procedures through therapeutic movements. Through this, the patient learns to relax their mastication muscles and eliminate possible contractions.

To conclude

Bruxism, or grinding teeth, can cause dental problems, as well as headaches, tension, and muscular pain, among other symptoms. If you think you may have this condition, it’s best to seek medical attention and an orthodontist as getting a diagnosis is key to starting effective treatment.

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