Bruxism and jaw pain

What is bruxism?

Bruxism is the involuntary clenching or grinding of your teeth.  It usually happens during sleep, but some people experience it when they are awake. Bruxism is commonly caused by emotional or physical stress, mental concentration, incorrect tooth alignment, drug misuse or erupting teeth in children. 


The signs and symptoms of bruxism can include:

  • Wear on teeth causing sensitivity to hot and cold

  • Broken, chipped or fractures to teeth

  • Pain in the jaw joint muscles

  • Facial pain with tension headache caused by intense muscle contractions

  • Grinding sounds while a person is asleep

  • Raised tissue on the cheek caused by cheek biting

Teeth grinding can cause the following oral health problems:

  • Cracked tooth enamel

  • Excessive wear on teeth

  • Broken teeth or restorations

  • Strain on the joints and soft tissue of the jaw joint

  • Enlargement of the jaw muscles


If you are experiencing jaw pain your dentist can help you find out why.

Treatment of bruxism

Clenching and grinding when you are awake can be avoided by monitoring your behaviour and consciously stopping yourself. Unfortunately, teeth grinding and clenching during sleep is involuntary and at this stage there is no treatment to stop you from doing it completely. Damage to your teeth and jaws can be minimised by wearing a custom night guard over your teeth called an occlusal splint. A splint is made from hard acrylic and fits securely over your upper or lower teeth.  The splint will act as a barrier to protect your teeth, so when you grind, you will wear down the splint instead of your teeth.  While the main purpose of a splint is to protect your teeth, it may also help your jaw muscles relax. If you are aware that you grind your teeth or have any symptoms outlined above, see your dentist to assess your situation and discuss your treatment options.

Management of jaw pain

If you are experiencing jaw pain, your dentist will assess your situation to see what is causing your problem. Once the cause is identified, your dentist will be able to recommend the best way to manage your condition. In some cases, your dentist may recommend seeing a physiotherapist, a specialist or your general practitioner for management.

Book now to talk with a dentist about your options

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