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Tooth grinding or ‘bruxism’ is a common phenomenon. It is thought that nocturnal bruxism, or grinding at night affects 8-10% of the population. Awake bruxism ie. jaw clenching and grinding during waking hours is even more common, affecting approximately 20% of the population.

Over time grinding or clenching can cause significant damage to one’s teeth. The signs and symptoms to look out for if you suspect you may grind your teeth are:

  • Painful jaw in the morning
  • Difficulty opening wide in the morning
  • Broken or chipped teeth
  • Sore teeth or gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Headaches centred around your temples
  • Ulcers along your cheeks or the sides of your tongue
  • Your teeth looking smaller or shorter than they did in the past

Causes of Bruxism

Clenching or grinding during waking hours is thought to be associated with life stress, work pressure, family responsibility etc… Nocturnal bruxism or night grinding has been classified as a sleep-related movement disorder. The exact causes are not fully understood but it thought to be associated with dopamine pathways in the brain. This is why some recreational drugs such as ecstasy can cause bruxism. Even smokers are more likely to grind their teeth as nicotine can affect dopamine release in the brain.


As with most things in dentistry prevention is far better than cure. Treatment of teeth severely affected by bruxism can be complex and costly. If you, your partner or family or your dentist suspect that you may grind your teeth an occlusal night guard or bite splint may be of benefit to you. A bite splint is an appliance that one wears at night time to protect the teeth from potential damage inflicted by the heavy forces exerted during grinding. A nightguard is a custom-made appliance. An impression or mould of your teeth, usually the top set, is taken by your dentist. This impression is then sent to a specialist laboratory to construct your nightguard. Your dentist will then fit your nightguard for you to ensure that it is adapted correctly and can be worn comfortably.

If you have any concerns that you may grind your teeth, please do not hesitate to let your dentist know and we can discuss it with you.

All the best,

Team Ivory Dental

References: British Dental Journal Vol 224 (5): 319-323, J Indian Prosthodontic Society 2010 Sep; 10(3): 141-148

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