Sarah-Louise Waters

Tel 07791 634 727


Bruxism is the medical term for jaw clenching and teeth grinding.  Most people experience periods of bruxism on and off during their lives usually alongside high levels of stress.   Generally there are few long lasting effects of bruxism but occasionally, if the condition is long-standing, it can cause damage to the muscles of the face and neck, as well as to the teeth and gums.



80% of bruxism is subconscious and occurs at night during sleep.  This is called sleep bruxism and is generally associated with automatic or subconscious teeth grinding, as well as rhythmic and sustained jaw contractions.  Sleep bruxism occurs as a response to arousals during sleep, indicating that it may be a sign of sleep disorder.  It is therefore often also associated with snoring, gasping, mumbling, sleep hallucinations (when between sleep and awake) and excessive (and possibly violent) movement during sleep.  Many people do not realise that they suffer with bruxism in their sleep until it is noted by another person or they start to experience jaw stiffness or pain on waking.  


Awake bruxism is mostly related to jaw clenching and does not usually include teeth grinding.


Around 6 million people in the UK suffer from bruxism and it is most common in the age group of 25 to 44.  Although more women than men suffer with awake bruxism, sleep bruxism has no gender bias.


Possible Effects of Bruxism

  • Headaches - particularly around the temples

  • Earache

  • Tightness around neck and shoulder muscles

  • Jaw pain and / or stiffness

  • Facial pain

  • Sleep disruption - for the sufferer and their partner

  • Loss of tooth enamel

  • Excess tooth mobility

  • Hypersensitivity of the teeth

  • Inflammed and / or receding gums

Lifestyle Factors Linked to Bruxism

  • Alcohol use

  • Smoking

  • Recreational drug use - particularly cocaine and amphetamines (including ecstasy)

  • Excessive caffeine consumption - more than six cups per day


Other Factors

If you suffer with Parkinson’s disease you are more likely to suffer with bruxism and it can also be a side effect of certain types of medication, in particular SSSRI’s - a type of anti-depressant.  

Bruxism may be related to Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA), a condition characterised by repetitive pauses in breath during sleep due to the upper respiratory tract becoming blocked.  The link between the two conditions is currently being investigated and at present little is known as to which is the cause and which the effect.  It is summised however that as OSA prevents sufferers from entering into a deep level of sleep that they are more likely to then suffer with the symptoms of bruxism.



There are few treatment options for bruxism.  Wearing a mouth guard or splint can lessen the negative effects of both jaw clenching and teeth grinding but they will not stop you exhibiting the behaviour.  It is important for sufferers who exhibit teeth grinding to have regular dental check ups and it may be that your dentist will provide you with a personalised mouth guard if the situation demands.

Some relief may be gained from taking a muscle relaxing drug before going to bed but the side effects of this medication probably outweigh the benefits gained and thus is generally not recommended in the long term.  


One recent study looked into the use of Botox injections as a cure but even the researchers were unsure as to how effective this had been.  

Ibuprofen or another anti-inflammatory can be used to reduce the pain caused by bruxism but should not be relied upon on a long term basis.


Muscle relaxation exercises can help, particularly if you are aware of jaw clenching during the day.  Gently placing the tip of your tongue between your teeth will help to train your jaw to relax.  Try to avoid the lifestyle factors as listed above and also chewing gum which will habituate your jaw muscles into a clenching routine.  You can also try warming your jaw muscle with a hot wash cloth at bedtime and gently massaging the cheek area in front of your earlobes.  Both of these will help the muscles to relax and reduce the likelihood of sleep bruxism.

As noted earlier, sleep bruxism appears to be related to sleep disturbance and only occurs when the individual is in the lighter stages of sleep.  It is therefore important to ensure your sleeping habits are as healthy as possible.  This can include things like not drinking caffeine before bed, ensuring there is little light and noise disturbance in your bedroom and not engaging in social media after a certain time of day.  For more information on how to get the best night’s sleep possible check out my previous blog post at…….

If your sleep disturbance is related to OSA, it is really important that you get this investigated and treated, if necessary.  OSA causes significant physical and mental health problems and should be discussed with your GP at the earliest opportunity.


Probably the best treatment for bruxism is to look at reducing or removing the stress and anxiety emotions that are behind the muscle contractions.  This can be achieved using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or Hypnotherapy.  


It is widely reported that bruxism sufferers have achieved profound success and total symptom relief following a course of hypnotherapy and that this effect has lasted for three years following the treatment.  This is because hypnotherapy can not only help you relax your mind and your muscle tone but also help you achieve a better night’s sleep, thus eliminating the sleep disturbance aspect of the condition. If you would like more information on how hypnotherapy can help with bruxism, please get in touch and I will explain further.


If you suffer with bruxism and are looking for a treatment that works both by relaxing the jaw muscles with the physical touch of massage and significantly reduces your stress levels at the same time, book yourself in for an Indian Head Massage.  Throughout the month of February I am offering a 20% discount on all Indian Head Massage treatments bringing the cost of the 45 minute massage down to only £24!  

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