Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

Most people probably grind and clench their teeth from time to time, medically called bruxism. Occasional teeth grinding, medically called bruxism, does not usually cause harm, but when teeth grinding occurs on a regular basis the teeth can be damaged and other oral health complications can arise.

Why Do People Grind Their Teeth?

Although teeth grinding can be caused by stress and anxiety, it often occurs during sleep and is more likely caused by an abnormal bite or missing or crooked teeth.

How Do I Find Out if I Grind My Teeth?

Because grinding often occurs during sleep, most people are unaware that they grind their teeth. However, a dull, constant headache or sore jaw is a telltale symptom of bruxism. Many times people learn that they grind their teeth by their loved one who hears the grinding at night.

If you suspect you may be grinding your teeth, talk to your dentist. He or she can examine your mouth and jaw for signs of bruxism, such as jaw tenderness and abnormalities in your teeth.

Why Is Teeth Grinding Harmful?

In some cases, chronic teeth grinding can result in a fracturing, loosening, or loss of teeth. The chronic grinding may wear their teeth down to stumps. When these events happen, bridges, crowns, root canals, implants, partial dentures, and even complete dentures may be needed.

Not only can severe grinding damage teeth and result in tooth loss, it can also affect your jaws, result in hearing loss, cause or worsen TMD/TMJ, and even change the appearance of your face.

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Bruxism: Signs and Symptoms

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD

The habit of grinding, gnashing, grating, or clenching the teeth is termed bruxism, and millions of adults and children are affected by this condition. While its exact cause is unknown, most experts believe that bruxism can occur as a response to increased psychological stress.

Bruxism involves any type of forceful contact between the teeth, whether silent and clenching, or loud and grating. Estimates vary regarding the number of people who suffer from this condition and range from 50%-95% of the adult population. Approximately 15% of all children also acquire this condition. Many people are not aware that they have this condition because they grind their teeth at night while asleep, although bruxism can occur during daytime hours as well.

Certain sleep disorders are accompanied by bruxism. Drinking alcoholand taking certain medications (for example, antidepressants) may worsen the bruxism. Malocclusion (improper alignment of the teeth) may also play a causative role or may determine the severity of symptoms related to bruxism. Children may develop bruxism as a response to a cold or other infection and are more likely to develop it when their parents are affected. Some studies show that persons whose personalities may be described as compulsive, controlling, precise, or aggressive have an increased incidence of bruxism.