Bruxism is defined as the repetitive activity of the jaw muscles. This is commonly clenching or grinding of the teeth, but can also include bracing of the jaw in a fixed position. Bruxism can occur both when awake and during sleep. Many people do not even realise that they do it.

Common signs and symptoms

•Pain, tenderness and fatigue of the jaw muscles.

•Noises or clicks from the jaw joints (TMJ) •Pain in the joint, or ear ache.

•Headaches, most common in the temple region.

•Scalloped edges on the tongue, raised ridge lines on the inside of the cheeks

•Tooth wear, broken teeth, sensitive teeth.

•Enlarged masseter muscles. This gives a squarer appearance to the face.


Stress and anxiety are the most common causes of bruxism. Other causes include sleep disorders, gastric acid reflux disorders, neurological issues, respiratory disorders and use of stimulants. A full clinical examination is important to establish a diagnosis. There may be issues with the jaw joints that need further investigation. There could also be other reasons for your headaches or facial pain which need ruling out.

It is important to address the underlying causes of bruxism as a priority.

Your GP can help. Speak to them about stress, depression and anxiety. If we suspect sleep apnoea this needs investigation. This is potentially life threatening if not diagnosed and treated.

It is far better to treat bruxism and it’s causes early. If left to progress it can be much harder to manage.


There are additional options for bruxism management, available here at Island Dental. •

  • Occlusal splints/guards can protect the teeth from further wear when sleeping.
  • Muscle relaxing injections of Botulinum toxin can reduce the activity of the muscles. A higher dose can reduce their size (atrophy) if they have enlarged. This can return the face to a more natural shape. Repeated treatments are usually required a few months apart.
  • Restorative dental treatments for worn and chipped teeth. These can improve your smile and function.


There are many things you can do to help yourself. These include:

  • Relax and try to address any stress and anxiety. Exercise regularly such as walking outside. Try Yoga and Pilates type exercises. Mindlefulness and meditation can be beneficial.
  • Eat a well balanced diet. The Mediterranean diet is well known to help with stress and anxiety. Avoid high sugar foods.
  • Avoid stimulants such as coffee, alcohol and recreational drugs.
  • Avoid habits such as nail biting and resting your face in your hands.
  • Gentle massage of the muscles. Do not over do it.
  • If muscles are painful change to a pain free diet. Eat softer food and cut food into smaller pieces. Avoid gum chewing or over exercising the muscles.
  • Heat pads on the side of the face help with more acute muscle pain. A moist towel heated in the microwave works well. Place for 5 minutes 3 times a day for up to 6 weeks. Do not use cold packs. A pea sized amount of topical ibuprofen gel can be rubbed into the skin over the muscle.
  • Be mindful of how your jaws and teeth are positioned. Try to keep your teeth apart and muscles relaxed. Also check your posture, especially forward thrusting head position.
  • Avoid excessive screen time on devices as clenching is more common when concentrating. A downward head position can cause muscle strain.
  • Download BruxApp or No Clenching App. These have been developed with the help of specialists. They work by alerting you throughout the day to self check and reduce your bruxing habits.If you would like to book in for a consultation, please contact Island Dental on 0362312356.