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Definition

Bruxism is grinding or clenching of the teeth in a person who is unaware they are doing it. It usually happens during sleep.

Closed Jaw
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Causes

The exact cause is not known. Many things may play a role, such as:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Poor alignment of the teeth or jaws

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in children and young adults. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Putting oneself under intense pressure
  • Taking certain medicines, such as antidepressants
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Drinking items that have caffeine
  • Abuse of drugs or alcohol
  • Mental health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Having other family members with bruxism
  • Having certain health problems, such as Parkinson disease

Symptoms

Problems may be:

  • Grinding teeth during sleep
  • Teeth that are sensitive to heat, cold, or brushing
  • Teeth that are worn down, flattened, fractured, or chipped
  • Sore teeth
  • Swollen gums
  • Damage to the inside of the cheek—from biting or chewing
  • Tense facial or jaw muscles
  • Headache, especially when waking in the morning

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. An exam of the teeth and jaw will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.

Treatment

This problem may go away on its own in some people, especially children and young adults. In others, the goal is to manage symptoms and prevent damage. Choices are:

  • Correcting teeth that are not aligned
  • Wearing a mouth guard at night to protect the teeth
  • Therapy methods to change the behavior, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or relaxation therapy
  • Medicines, such as:
    • Muscle relaxants
    • Sleeping aids
    • Botox injections

Prevention

There are no known methods to prevent this health problem.

RESOURCES:

Academy of General Dentistry
http://www.agd.org

Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association
http://www.mouthhealthy.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Dental Association
http://www.cda-adc.ca

Dental Hygiene Canada
http://www.dentalhygienecanada.ca

REFERENCES:

Bruxism (teeth grinding or clenching). Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/sleep/bruxism.html. Accessed March 25, 2021.

Gauer RL, Semidey MJ. Diagnosis and treatment of temporomandibular disorders. Am Fam Physician. 2015 Mar 15;91(6):378-386.

Management of temporomandibular disorders. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/management-of-temporomandibular-disorders. Accessed March 25, 2021.

Teeth grinding. Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association website. Available at: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/t/teeth-grinding. Accessed March 25, 2021.

Teeth grinding. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/bruxism-and-sleep. Accessed March 25, 2021.

Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD  Last Updated: 03/25/2021