Grinding your teeth is changing the shape of your face

TMD and TMJ healthcare concept: Temporomandibular Joint and Muscle Disorder. Asia man hand on cheek face as suffering from facial pain, mumps or toothache bruxism
Bruxism is the medical term for teeth grinding. (Getty Images)

If you have ever woken up with a sore jaw or a persistent headache, or you catch yourself clenching your jaw in the middle of a stressful work day, you may have something called bruxism.

Bruxism is the medical term for unconsciously grinding or clenching your teeth – and, along with jaw aches and pains, it can also change the structure of your face.

It’s no wonder, then, that Google has seen searches for ‘bruxism face shape’ rise by 102% in the past month or so, as people look to see whether they have been affected by the condition.

Luckily, aesthetics practitioner and founder of London Lip Clinic, Rupesh Shah, explains everything we need to know about bruxism and its impact on our face shape, below.

Bruxism is the medical term for the condition that sees people regularly grinding or clenching their teeth.

Shah says that, along with facial pain, it can lead to headaches, tooth wear, and even tooth loss.

“This can happen unconsciously while you sleep, or while you’re awake,” he adds. “‘Awake bruxism’ is often triggered by stress or anxiety, but studies have shown it can even be triggered by certain types of medication used to treat things like ADHD, depression, and schizophrenia.”

In some instances, bruxism can lead to overdeveloped jaw muscles, which gives your face a squarer look.

“When you constantly clench your jaw and grind your teeth, the masseter muscle which connects your lower jaw to your cheeks, and is responsible for chewing, becomes overworked,” Shah explains. “This means it can increase in size and change the shape of your face, giving it a broader, squarer appearance around the jawline.”

A woman feeling pain, holding her jaw with hand, suffering from bad tooth ache.
Bruxism can lead to the appearance of a broader jaw. (Getty Images)

Regularly grinding your teeth can also wear down some teeth which means your teeth can end up being uneven.

“This can lead to you subconsciously chewing only on one side of your mouth, and cause changes in your bite,” Shah says. “This can make one side of your face look different to the other, changing the overall symmetry of your face.”

In severe cases, bruxism can lead to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), which affects the emporomandibular joint that connects your jawbone to your skull.

“Excessive grinding can strain this joint which leads to pain, stiffness, and clicking or popping when you open and close your mouth,” Shah says. “TMJ disorders can cause malocclusion, misalignment of the teeth and jaw. This misalignment can shift the position of your jaw, and lead to changes in your facial profile, like a recessed or protruding jaw which changes the way your chin looks, or causing hollow or sunken cheeks.”

Besides the appearance of your jaw, bruxism can also affect another part of your body – your skin. This can lead to premature wrinkles.

“The constant tension and pain can cause premature lines to form, or deepen existing wrinkles,” Shah says. “The collapse in your bite caused by the grinding can decrease the muscle tone in your face, giving the appearance of sagging and loss of volume.”

First and foremost, if you suspect you suffer from bruxism you should speak to your dentist who can diagnose you with it and talk to you about the best course of action.

“This could include wearing a mouthguard at night that is custom fitted to your teeth to help protect them from the grinding, and reduce muscle strain,” Shah says. “They might also recommend physical therapy for your jaw muscles.”

Young latina female with curly hair touching cheek in pain having toothache sitting on bed in cozy bedroom at home. Body concept.
Facial exercises can ease tension and aid relaxation. (Getty Images)

Shah also recommends facial exercises to relieve the tension of facial and jaw muscles, and to promote relaxation.

As bruxism is often brought on by stress, he also recommends practicing mindfulness.

“Stress is one of the biggest triggers for bruxism, so trying mindfulness techniques like meditation, breathing exercises, or gentle yoga stretches when you start to feel your jaw clench could be helpful in minimising the effects of teeth grinding,” Shah says.

He adds that keeping the skin hydrated and using products that boost collagen can help to prevent bruxism leading to premature wrinkles.