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Bruxism and Its Impact on Facial Health

8 min read
by Dylan Hao |

Bruxism, the term referring to subconscious jaw clenching and teeth grinding, can happen to anyone. It’s often stress-related but can stem from a variety of other causes.

Left untreated, bruxism leads to tooth, gum, and bone damage, as well as dangerous health conditions that can damage your facial appearance.

How can you prevent “bruxism face” from happening to you? Read on to learn all about this condition, its impact on your facial health, and how to avoid the damage.

What is Bruxism?

Bruxing is the act of grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw tightly without realizing it. There are two types of bruxism: awake and sleep.

Since the awake version is easier to control because you can catch yourself in the act, most research focuses on sleep bruxism. This condition falls under the category of sleep-related movement disorders.

The Prevalence of Bruxism

Bruxism can range from mild to severe. Regardless of the intensity of your symptoms, if left untreated, the damage from clenching and grinding may lead to painful, long-term health conditions like:

  • Sore jaws
  • Debilitating jaw pain
  • Temporomandibular joint disorders (better known as TMJ disorders)
  • Headaches
  • Dental health damage

Any type of jaw muscle issue is going to affect jaw movement, which means that when you chew, talk, or even yawn, you’ll feel discomfort.

The problem is that many people don’t realize they have bruxism until it has already caused enough issues that they seek medical or dental care. So what leads millions of people to this prevalent and possibly dangerous condition?

Causes of Bruxism

To treat the behaviors associated with bruxism, you must first understand what’s causing yours. There are various reasons you might be bruxing, such as:

  • Genetics
  • Chronic alcohol or caffeine consumption
  • Smoking and recreational drug habits
  • Using certain medications, such as those prescribed for depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and seizures

But the most common cause of bruxism is psychosocial. Your mood, including stress, distress, or nervousness, can increase your likelihood of bruxing.

And with the rate of stress, depression, and anxiety skyrocketing since the pandemic, it’s not surprising to see an increase in bruxing diagnoses, too.

Risk Factors of Bruxing

The thing is, not everyone who smokes or drinks alcohol or caffeine bruxes. Stress doesn’t instantly lead to grinding.

So what makes some people clench and grind, and others sleep peacefully? The answer solidly lies in a person’s risk factors.

The more risk factors for bruxing you have, the more likely you are to engage in this subconscious behavior. Let’s look at the typical factors that predispose someone to bruxing:

  • Increased stress, anger, and frustration are the main causes of bruxing. If you’re under a lot of pressure, you may grind your teeth in your sleep to release that pent-up energy.
  • Age, as bruxing is more common in children who haven’t yet learned how to handle their stress.
  • Aggressive, hyperactive, or competitive personalities with “racing minds” that don’t want to “shut off” at night
  • A genetic predisposition with family members who have a history of bruxing
  • Mental health and medical conditions like Parkinson’s disease, dementia, sleep apnea, and ADHD

Yet, as common as bruxing is, it’s not a condition you want to have forever. If you don’t take care of the underlying problem, it, as well as the clenching and grinding, can lead to severe consequences.

What Are the Symptoms and Side Effects of Bruxism?

blonde woman holding head in pain

We mentioned earlier that you can have bruxism and not know it. In those cases, your clenching and grinding are mild enough not to disrupt your sleep. But if it worsens or continues, you’ll notice it appearing with otherwise unexplainable symptoms and side effects.

Some of the earliest signs of this problem include insomnia or daytime tiredness after you thought you’d slept through the night. You may also start waking up with low-grade headaches.

Over time, these symptoms will evolve into more serious complications, including:

  • Flattened, chipped, or broken teeth
  • Worn-down enamel exposing your dentin
  • Sensitive teeth and gums
  • Facial muscle discomfort
  • Jaw soreness
  • Earaches
  • Migraines

Mild to moderate bruxism is usually treatable by addressing the cause of your grinding and adding a custom-made night guard (like those we create at JS Dental Lab) to your nightly routine.

But more severe cases of bruxism may lead to permanent side effects, including bruxism face, which changes your facial structure.

How Can Bruxism Change My Face Shape?

What? Bruxing can change the shape of your face?


Think about your arms and legs. If you work out regularly, you notice a visible difference, right? And if you’re always sedentary, those rock-hard muscles become weak and flabby. The same type of behavior happens with your jaw movement.

Your body’s muscles are very malleable. They can expand and grow to handle hard work or atrophy from disuse.

But if you aren’t careful, hard work can damage the delicate tissues that create each muscle, causing painful inflammation or tears.

With bruxism, the jaw muscles are hard at work, and that overuse shows up in the shape of the jawbone.

Jaw Hypertrophy

Chronic clenching of the jaw causes hypertrophy (enlargement) of the masseter muscles and temporalis musculature. This usually happens on one side, resulting in facial asymmetry and causing the jawline to look more masculine and square-like.

In addition to this asymmetrical visual appearance, some patients also complain of trismus (jaw spasms), protruding teeth and jaws, and bruxism. It’s easy to visualize how protrusions will change the look of your face, but the sneakier culprit here is bruxism.

How Bruxism Face Happens

When you brux, your clenching and grinding put a heavy strain on the masseter muscles. You’ll know this is likely the issue if you feel jaw pain, soreness, and stiffness in the connected muscles (primarily your neck and shoulders).

In a nutshell, bruxing keeps your jaw muscles wound as tightly as possible for hours at a time, sometimes for most of the night. Then you wake up and spend the day doing things that require muscle activity, like talking, eating, yawning, chewing gum, and laughing, working those tissues more. 

This turns into jaw overuse because your muscles never have any downtime to give them a chance to rest. Eventually, those hard-worked muscles grow, giving your lower face a thicker, square-shaped look.

Bad Habits and Bruxism Face

Not every case of ongoing bruxism ends up with a misshapen face, though. It depends on how quickly you seek treatment and what your oral hygiene habits are.

Compounding multiple bad habits like chewing gum or nail biting on top of bruxing plays a more significant role in jaw hypertrophy.

But on top of the jaw changes, bruxism can also make you age faster. Restful slumber is vital to staying healthy. When you brux, your sleep is interrupted each night, and your brain doesn’t have the opportunity to heal your body from the inside out. Because your cells age faster, your face and skin appear to be older than necessary.

The result? Bags under your eyes, fine lines and wrinkles, and an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.

What should you do if you think your jawline or face is changing shape? Next, we’ll discuss preventing or reducing the damage from bruxism face.

How Can I Prevent Bruxism Face?

Preventing jaw changes and premature aging from bruxism is possible! 

We know that chronic jaw clenching forces the muscles to overwork and that hypertrophy creates a thicker, square-like look. With preventative measures, you can keep your softer jawline and avoid bruxism face.

Exercises and Stretches

One way to do this is to learn and follow the exercises and stretches that work your jaw muscles correctly.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but gentle stretches and exercises soothe the overworked muscles in the same way that yoga strengthens the rest of your body but doesn’t “bulk” you up.

Talk to your doctor about preventative activities you can do at home to relieve swollen jaws, like these TMJ pain relief exercises. Not only will you actively prevent facial damage from bruxism, but you’ll also notice less discomfort and fewer bruxing side effects.

Stress Management

two women sitting in lotus yoga position to combat stress

Overall physical and mental wellness begins with a stress management routine. How do you handle pressures in your life? 

Every type of stress, whether internal or external, triggers a release of stress hormones like cortisol into your bloodstream. An increase in cortisol is directly linked with anxiety, depression, and bruxism. 

Finding ways to eliminate stress hormones reduces your bruxing behaviors. Stress management varies by individual, but some common techniques include:

  • Regular physical activity
  • Journaling
  • Meditating
  • Yoga
  • Connecting with people you enjoy being around

Stress can also be managed through habit changes. Reduce alcohol or caffeine consumption, and stop using tobacco or illicit drugs. (Your stress may increase during the withdrawal period, but the long-term results will soothe your body into its normal, healthier state.)

Additionally, take vitamins and supplements that are good for your bones and sleep patterns, such as magnesium, calcium, and Vitamins B and D.

Using a Night Guard

Consistent use of a custom-fit night guard from a professional service like JS Dental Lab doesn’t stop the bruxing, but it does substantially reduce the damage from clenching and grinding.

With a well-fitting night guard, your upper and lower teeth can’t touch. Therefore, the jaw can’t gain traction to clench or grind. This forces the muscles to rest while you sleep, giving them the much-needed downtime necessary to avoid hypertrophy.

It’s Too Late — But Can I Reverse the Facial Damage From Bruxism?

If you’re already noticing the signs of facial damage, don’t stress! There are various types of aesthetic treatments that can restore your face to its pre-bruxing shape.

Beginning with your at-home care, focus on learning the best relaxation techniques to boost your sleep quality and eliminate unnecessary stress hormones. Self-care is an essential component when it comes to stopping bruxism and reducing its symptoms.

In the meantime, use a night guard consistently. If you have TMJ or sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about the right kind of mouth guard for your condition.

Medical Procedures to Reverse Facial Damage

Medical therapies can actively reduce the effects of aging due to bruxism face. Botulinum toxin type A (Botox) is a widely used treatment that temporarily freezes the muscles along the jaw. Using these neuromodulators reduces the tension that causes bruxing pain and increased aging.

Another type of bruxism face medical intervention is perioral rejuvenation. The perioral area includes the lips and soft tissue surrounding them. Various minimally invasive procedures may be used to restore a youthful, slimming appearance in those showing signs of aging.

Keep in mind that without the other lifestyle changes we discussed, any medical treatment options won’t be permanent. You may need to continue receiving rejuvenation therapies and Botox as your doctor recommends.


The post-pandemic world may be one in which stress is part of our daily lives, but it’s also full of amazing innovations in healthcare and dentistry.

Your bruxism diagnosis doesn’t have to mean long-term symptoms and side effects. 

Instead, the corrective measures may be as simple as investing in a high-quality custom night guard from JS Dental Lab!

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