Bruxism symptoms can be numerous and varied. Health professionals divide them into the following categories: symptoms and signs in your body and symptoms and signs in your everyday behavior. Here, we will examine each category on its own, but please note that both ‘body’ and ‘behavior’ symptoms frequently occur together.
Symptoms and Signs in your Body
Audible noises – Very often, a parent or partner will become aware of your bruxism habit before you do. Many describe it as a scraping or grating sound. With an individual who has been bruxing for some time, the sound can be loud enough to wake a partner from sleep!
Teeth Display a Flattened Appearance –
Another noticeable sign of bruxism will quite easily be diagnosed with a visit to your dentist. Instead of the usual concavities, cusps and edges found in normal, healthy teeth, your teeth will display a flattened appearance. There will also be signs of wear present on the enamel, which is the tooth’s hard, outer surface. The dentist may find cracks, scratches or chipping here.
In severe cases, the edge of each tooth will be completely smooth and flat, similar to sheep’s teeth. This takes a great deal of time, however, as the enamel is hard enough to resist your grinding against it initially. In bruxism’s early stages, you would be more likely to notice other symptoms like pain or tenderness in the facial muscles and jaw.
Adverse symptoms can also appear at the edges of your gums. The refracted force from continual teeth grinding can eventually cause a groove to appear at the junction between your teeth and gums. This takes several years to appear, but when it does, the damage is permanent.
“Morning after” symptoms – Discomfort felt as soon as you wake up is often one of the first signs to alert you to your bruxism habit. Clenching or grinding during sleep can mean that you awaken with earaches, sore facial muscles, cheek pain, tightness in the jaw, or headaches. All of these can be caused by contraction of your jaw muscles during episodes of bruxing while you are asleep. Additionally, your cheek tissue may feel inflamed or sore.
Sometime, people fail to equate the strong pain in their facial muscles, joints, jaws or cheeks with bruxism. They remain unaware of their habit, and continue to cause themselves discomfort, instead of addressing the source of the pain. It is not at all uncommon for patients to consult neurologists and ENT specialists about their symptoms, without finding a cure for their suffering. Once they begin using a mouth guard at night, often as a last-ditch resort, most people immediately notice some improvement in their symptoms.
Even if sufferers of bruxism don’t experience headaches in the morning, their muscles have been clenching throughout the night, and any additional stress during the day can bring on a severe headache. If you find that you have inexplicable head pain during the day, nightly bruxism may well be the cause.
A respected professor of orthodontics, Ettie Gazit, has had a number of patients who claimed they must have a serious illness like cancer. They claimed to experience near-unbearable headaches. In the end, the problem was simply bruxism. Many people do not realize just how much pressure is exerted on the jaw muscles from an unconscious grinding habit. The reason for this is the jaw muscles are relatively short in length and tire quickly. Also, the muscles that close the jaw are quite a lot stronger than those used to open it, so an imbalance is quickly created, resulting in pain. There is also a disturbance to the oxygen supply needed by the muscle tissues, which also causes considerable discomfort.
(Information on Dr. Gazit’s practice was translated from this website).
Migraines – Bruxism symptoms also extend to serious migraines, which are brought about by the extreme pressure that grinding exerts on the teeth. This, in turn, causes tension and locking in the muscles of the jaw. The tension radiates into the neck muscles, as well as the rest of the head, which can cause unrelenting migraine headaches.
Jaw Pain and TMJ – Bruxism is frequently related to temporomandibular joint disorder. When the jaw muscles are inappropriately stretched or tense, this disorder is likely to arise. Symptoms include swelling, inflammation and tenderness around the jaw hinge. Certain sufferers complain of a ‘popping’ sound in the jaw as well. Sometimes, there will also be referred ear pain. Some sufferers also experience a popping sound in the jaw joint. Chronic sufferers may even experience some hearing loss, although this is fairly uncommon.
Teeth Sensitivity – Tooth sensitivity to extremes of temperature is very common in people who grind their teeth. This is due to the fact that bruxism causes the tooth enamel to wear away, so that there is less of a protective barrier between hot or cold foods and the sensitive dentin on the inside of the teeth.
Tissue damage on the inside of the cheek – When you clench and grind, it is possible to injure the tissue on the inside of one or both cheeks. It is quite common for bruxism sufferers to have scratches, indentations and inflammation on their tongue and cheeks.
Symptoms and Signs in Your Everyday Behavior
Habitual Behavior Patterns – Alongside physical symptoms of bruxism, you may also notice a behavioral impact. This is related to the body’s need to mitigate tension and stress levels. Bruxism sufferers often find that they also bite their nails, chew pencils or gnaw on the inside of their cheeks.
Usually, these are all subconscious actions. The fact that a sufferer is unaware of what they are doing is exactly what causes so much damage. This is why it is important not only to address your bruxism with a good mouth guard, but also to treat the underlying causes of your stress and anxiety as best you can.
Sleep Disturbances – Bruxism will very often disturb your sleep, leaving you groggy and tired in the morning, without knowing why. Even if you are not aware of it, you may be woken up several times in the night by your own grinding noises or painful twinges that arise from overly tense muscles. If you are losing sleep like this on a regular basis, further complications, including depression, lack of mental clarity and irritability may arise.
Indigestion and Other Eating Disorders – Problems with eating are commonly associated with bruxism, particularly in children. Discomfort while chewing can cause a child to lose their appetite. In adults, worn or damaged teeth are common causes of indigestion.
Emotional disorders – A vicious cycle of depression, anxiety, stress and tension can arise in bruxism sufferers. These are all causes of the disorder, but as the actual grinding disturbs both sleep and eating, they are exacerbated, and cause an even stronger impulse to clench or grind the teeth. The constant pain that arises from serious cases of bruxism also has a considerable negative impact on mental health.
A number of clinical studies have shown that individuals with depression are more susceptible to episodes of bruxism than the rest of the population. If the root cause of the bruxism remains untreated, the habit will almost definitely re-occur. Therefore, it is extremely important to address the stress and anxiety in your life at the same time as treating the physical symptoms of a teeth grinding habit.