Do you suddenly realise that you have been grinding or clenching your teeth? Do you suffer from jaw tension or facial pain? Is this occurrence more common in the last couple of years while living through a pandemic? 

If you answered with a “yes” to all these questions, read on to find out more. 

You might be suffering from bruxism, a condition in which you grind or clench your teeth excessively and unconsciously. 

If you find yourself clenching your teeth unconsciously when you are awake, it is called awake bruxism and if you do the same while you are sleeping, it is called sleep bruxism. Bruxism occurs in both children and adults.

Clenching your teeth and jaws puts pressure on the muscles, tissues, and structures around your jaw, which can lead to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems (conditions affecting the joints, muscles, and ligaments of the jaw). It may result in severe damage to the teeth, and other dental or oral health complications.

Causes of Bruxism

A single cause for bruxism has not been identified. Research suggests that it may be due to a combination of physical, psychological, and genetic factors.

Few common causes of bruxism are:

  • Stress 

  • Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression

  • Feeling emotions such as anger, frustration, or tension

  • Due to a misaligned bite, missing teeth, and resulting irritation in the mouth 

  • As a side effect of medications such as antidepressants

  • Smoking, alcohol, and caffeine use 

  • Sleep apnea, which causes your breathing to stop temporarily during sleep

  • Neurological conditions such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease

Symptoms of Bruxism

You may be completely unaware that you grind your teeth, especially if teeth grinding occurs while you are asleep. 

Watch out for these symptoms:

  • Facial pain

  • Stiff and painful jaw

  • Painful neck

  • Ear pain

  • Clicking or grinding noises during jaw movement 

  • Dull headache

  • Tooth sensitivity 

  • Loose, chipped, or broken teeth

  • Worn teeth enamel (outer white layer of teeth)

  • Broken or loose teeth fillings

  • Sleep disruption

Has Bruxism Increased During The Pandemic?

Yes, studies suggest that during the last couple of years, instances of teeth grinding and complaints of orofacial (related to the mouth and face) pain were on the rise. 

This may be attributed to the increased stress levels, including stress due to the constant threat of illness, financial concerns, social isolation, and worry for the safety and well-being of loved ones. 

The increased stress may have contributed to increased teeth clenching and grinding during daytime and in sleep, resulting in facial pain and TMJ problems. 

Management of Bruxism

The foremost step in managing bruxism is to visit your dentist and get a proper diagnosis. If you are diagnosed with bruxism:

  • Take self-care measures to manage your stress and anxiety, including meditation, journaling, exercising, spending time with loved ones, and consultations with mental health professionals. 

  • Ask your dentist for a custom night guard to protect your teeth if you end up grinding your teeth in sleep.

  • Try visual cues such as stickers on everyday objects or auditory ones such as notifications on your phone or an app to remind you not to clench your teeth. 

Most importantly, do not let go of your oral hygiene routine and maintain regular dental visits, so that any problems can be treated promptly.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.