Affecting 10% of adults & 15% of children, bruxism is a disorder that most people don’t even know that they have until someone else points it out and quite often that someone is the one who lies beside you while you sleep!

Bruxism is more commonly known as teeth grinding. Our teeth are not designed to continually clench, gnash or grind and whilst in some cases people are known to do this whilst awake, it is predominantly a sleep syndrome.

A little girl with headache

So how do we know we have it?

In children it is commonly noticed by a parent or sometimes a sibling sharing a room, but adults often rely on someone who sleeps with them and in both cases usually identified by a grinding or tapping noise. You may however notice other symptoms such as:

  • Headache, earache or jaw pain upon waking
  • Aching teeth in the morning
  • Stiff or painful jaw whilst chewing especially at breakfast
  • Tooth marks or bite marks on your tongue in the morning
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Cracking or chipping of tooth enamel

Why do we do it?

The reasons behind bruxism are extensive. Common causes are linked to:

  • Emotional and mental traumas such as stress, anxiety, depression, aggression, frustration
  • Medical conditions including dehydration, nutritional deficiency or as a side effect of some medications
  • Recreational drug abuse
  • Jaw or tooth misalignment
  • Genetics (particularly in sleep bruxism)

Why do we need to worry?

Teeth grinding is not uncommon. Adults are known to experience episodes in periods of high stress or trauma and children frequently grow out of the condition without any long-term effects on their teeth. But continual teeth grinding can result in damage to tooth enamel, tooth wear and attrition, tooth fractures, failing of dental work such as fillings, sensitive teeth, jaw inflammation and damage to jaw ligament and muscles.

Some studies have also discovered links between bruxism and neurological, psychological and psychiatric disorders.


Like with all things early diagnosis of bruxism is essential, but unfortunately often difficult. More than likely you may not notice it all but, your partner may be looking somewhat bleary eyed and feeling rather grumpy in the morning from lack of sleep due to your noisy teeth!

If you live alone and are suffering symptoms in the mornings or suspect that you may grind your teeth, a voice recorder may help you determine your sleep habits. Teeth clenching however is even more difficult to identify and may require a bite plate designed to assist with diagnosis of bruxism.

a dental xray with frontal view of the teeth

Traditionally diagnosing bruxism involves a process of examining teeth for signs of wear and damage, x-rays, investigating your jaw function. In some instances, a sleep study may also be required and depending on your condition, it may be a process that your dental practitioner needs to carry out over a few visits.

An official diagnosis of bruxism can only be made by your dental practitioner, and only your dental practitioner can implement an appropriate treatment plan, so if you haven’t already contacted our caring and expert dental team then right now is the only time to book an appointment with us to discuss your options.