Bruxism, i.e. nocturnal teeth grinding or clenching of the teeth, has become a veritable common disease. What sounds harmless, can sometimes have serious consequences, because the masticatory muscles are affected in the crunching and pressing as well as the temporomandibular joint. The result of crunching is tooth damage - with health and often cosmetic disadvantages for those affected. Find out where the causes of bruxism are, how the doctor diagnoses the disease and what treatments there are.

Overview of this article

What is bruxism?

Anyone who suffers from bruxism grinds unconsciously with their teeth or presses their upper and lower jaws together with great force - especially while sleeping at night, ie unconsciously. During the day, this phenomenon is rare, which is why bruxism is also considered a sleep disorder. Physicians refer to the crunching and pressing as a parafunction, that is, as an activity that serves no concrete benefit. Also, chewing on pencils and fingernails and biting the cheek or on the lips are considered a parafunction - but these usually do not have a major impact on the mouth and teeth. Most sufferers grind in the so-called dream phases - also referred to as REM phases (for "Rapid Eye Movement", ie the rapid movement of the eyes during sleep).

Ideally, the teeth of the maxilla and mandible are in contact only when chewing - about 30 minutes a day. Otherwise, the jaw is in the so-called hover attitude in which the masticatory muscles are completely relaxed. By contrast, patients with bruxism press their teeth against each other for an average of two hours, with immense power. If the disease remains untreated, it can permanently damage the tooth substance.

Typical symptoms of bruxism

Typical symptoms of bruxism

If affected persons are not made aware by their spouse or relatives of the often loud crunching, bruxism often remains unrecognized for many years. There are, however, numerous symptoms that may indicate bruxism, such as:

  • Muscle tension in the jaw area
  • Pain in the temporomandibular joint
  • Tiredness / listlessness
  • Unexplained toothache
  • Facial pain
  • Aching temples
  • Tense neck muscles
  • Inexplicable earache
  • Headache
  • Tinnitus

The dentist recognizes bruxism by the typical abrasion marks on the tooth surface - also referred to as abrasion or grinding facets, depending on the type. If bruxism is pronounced, the patient usually additionally suffers from pain-sensitive teeth. In very severe cases, the teeth can even loosen up.

Another typical symptom that points to bruxism is the cracking of the temporomandibular joint, such as when chewing. In this case, the joint disc of the temporomandibular joint (Discus articularis) slips, which prevents natural jaw movement and also the complete opening of the mouth.

If bruxism has been present for some time and if the affected person presses his teeth together at high pressure night after night, it can also lead to inflammatory processes in the joint capsule or to impaired ligaments of the temporomandibular joint.

Which forms of therapy are there?

The causes of bruxism cannot be resolved in most cases. Instead, the focus of treatment is on alleviating the symptoms and avoiding consequential damage.

A process known as splint therapy is most commonly used in bruxism. The patient receives a plastic splint which is especially made for his jaw, also called crunching splint or bite splint. The splint is transparent and worn at night - but in some cases it makes sense to use the splint as often as possible during the day to relieve the temporomandibular joint. The costs for a crunch bar are covered by the health insurance.

In addition, the symptoms can be significantly alleviated by physiotherapy, that is, by special relaxation exercises and massages in the jaw area. Also, heat treatments are very beneficial, for example, with the help of a heated cherry pit pillow or by means of an infrared lamp.

What causes bruxism?

As mentioned earlier, bruxism is a common problem that can occur at any age. However, children are much less affected than adults. The crunching is often a sign of mental stress that was not properly processed during the day. Furthermore, the following causes can be considered:

  • poorly fitting dental fillings
  • poorly adapted dental prostheses / dental implants
  • diseases of the periodontium apparatus

Functional disorder of the temporomandibular joint is often responsible for the development of bruxism. In this case, the doctor speaks of CMD (short for: craniomandibular dysfunction).

If you drink a lot of coffee, you should test it for a few weeks, because caffeine has a big influence on the sleep phases and therefore can cause teeth grinding as well. The same goes for alcohol.

Which self-help measures make sense with bruxism?

If you keep gritting your teeth or clenching your teeth, you should first try to reduce stress or process it more effectively. Relaxation techniques such as autogenic training or progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobson are particularly well suited. Exercising can also help reduce internal tensions so that they no longer have to be "crunched off" at night.

During the day, it is advisable to consciously relax the jaw as often as possible to relieve the jaw joint and prevent muscle hardening.

Is there a connection between bruxism and artificial dentures?

Is there a connection between bruxism and artificial dentures?

In fact, bruxism can be triggered or aggravated by poorly fitted prostheses or poorly fitting fillings. Because: If a bridge, tooth crown or filling does not fit correctly, the jaw reacts at night to the foreign body - by crunching or pressing. If you suspect bruxism, a visit to the dentist is highly recommended. The doctor will also check existing dentures for proper fit and suggest any improvements.


Anyone who crunches their teeth at night often feels impulsive during the day and suffers from pain and tension in the jaw area. Therefore, the earlier an expert is visited, the better. Bruxism can be treated well with the help of appropriate splints and relaxation techniques, so that those affected can then benefit from an improved quality of life.