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Feb 15, 2022

Have you ever woken up to an unprovoked, constant headache accompanied by a sore jaw or sore teeth? It feels almost as if you got into a fight you didn’t win the night before, but all you did was binge-watch your favourite Netflix series. You are not alone – those are symptoms of grinding and clenching your teeth.

The medical term for this condition is bruxism. It’s completely normal and harmless unless it becomes a consistent reoccurrence because it could then cause damage to your teeth and make room for other dental issues.

The reason why people grind their teeth, whether awake or asleep, is mainly attributed to stress and anxiety. Bruxism usually occurs when you are asleep, but it isn’t rare for bruxism to occur when you are awake. Sleep bruxism is a type of sleeping disorder.

Sleep bruxism symptoms are:

  • Pain in the face, neck and jaw
  • Stiffness in the jaw
  • Clicking or popping sounds when you move your jaw
  • Worn, broken, sensitive, or loose teeth or fillings

Awake bruxism

Awake bruxism differs from sleep bruxism, as awake bruxism isn’t a sleeping disorder but rather a subconscious habit. Just like sleep bruxism, awake bruxism happens involuntarily. In most cases, this happens when a person is feeling stressed or is concentrating. With awake bruxism, instead of grinding your teeth, you clench your teeth and tense the muscle area around your jaw.

There is no single identifiable cause of bruxism, but there are many contributing factors.

The contributing factors of primary bruxism are:

  • Stress. This is one of the main causes of bruxism in adults.
  • Smoking, caffeine and alcohol. Studies show that the use of substances causes bruxism.
  • Growing teeth. Up to 40% of young children experience bruxism because of growing teeth.

The secondary causes of bruxism are caused by medical conditions such as:

  • Mental health conditions. Usually anxiety and depression is associated with bruxism.
  • Medication. Bruxism is a side effect of some medications like antidepressants and antipsychotics.
  • Sleep apnoea. This is a condition that causes breathing to stop temporarily during sleep.

  • Neurological conditions. Diseases, such as Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, cause movement during sleep and, as a result, it can cause bruxism.


Dentists recommend a mouth guard, which is made of flexible rubber or plastic. It functions as a protective barrier that stops your teeth from getting damaged because of bruxism. An alternative that serves the same purpose is a mouth splint. It is made of harder plastic  and helps to keep the jaw in a relaxed position.

Take care of your teeth

It’s advisable to have a dental check-up three times a year. Visit the Bestmed App and find a dentist near you for your dental check-up if you haven’t gone yet.

Clinic, M. (2017, August 10). Bruxism. Retrieved from Mayoclinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bruxism/symptoms-causes/syc-20356095
Lewsley, J. (2021, November 10). What is bruxism or teeth grinding? Retrieved from Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/190180#sleep-bruxism
NHS. (2020, May 04). Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/teeth-grinding/#:~:text=Causes%20of%20teeth%20grinding&text=stress%20and%20anxiety%20%E2%80%93%20this%20is,selective%20serotonin%20reuptake%20inhibitors%20(SSRIs)

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