Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

Medically Reviewed on 5/31/2023

What is teeth grinding?

Chipped Teeth
Teeth grinding can create numerous problems such as local muscular pain, headaches, loss of tooth structure, etc.

Teeth grinding is a condition whereby one excessively grinds or clenches their teeth. Typically grinding and clenching occur mostly when sleeping but some individuals may grind and clench during the day also. Teeth grinding is also referred to as bruxism.

What is the main cause of bruxism?

The exact cause of teeth grinding is not totally understood and there are numerous different theories; however, there is a link to breathing airway issues, such as the following:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Jaw posture positions
  • Tooth position
  • Dental work that has changed jaw position or tooth positions
  • Abnormal bite
  • Trauma
  • Repetitive strain
  • Lifestyle activities, as well as emotional and developmental issues

Who is at risk for teeth grinding?

Anyone that has teeth can potentially grind their teeth. Anyone from small toddlers to the elderly and everyone in between can grind their teeth.

What are symptoms and signs of teeth grinding?

Symptoms of teeth grinding include:


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How do I stop grinding my teeth at night?

A sleep study is recommended to rule out an airway issue because grinding occurs mostly at night while sleeping.

  • If a poor airway is a contributing factor then treatment can be offered for the airway first and sometimes the teeth grinding will cease.
  • Every situation of teeth grinding is managed uniquely, but often a mouth guard fitted by a dentist is helpful. The mouth guard is worn when sleeping to protect the teeth from grinding.
  • Dietary changes, postural modifications, emotional therapy, medications, injections, tooth adjustments and dental work, orthodontics, and surgery are various treatments used.

What is the prognosis for teeth grinding?

The prognosis for teeth grinding can be very good, especially if the underlying cause can be determined. If it cannot, then at least wearing a properly fitting mouth guard can protect the teeth from further damage and often lessen the effects on the bone, muscle, and tissues.

Babies and toddlers grinding their teeth should always have an airway evaluation.

What happens if bruxism is not treated?

Teeth grinding can create numerous problems, such as the following:

  • Local muscular pain
  • Headaches
  • Loss of tooth structure
  • Gum recession
  • Loose teeth
  • Shortening of teeth
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Cracked and broken teeth
  • Damage to the bone structure of the jaw joint with the temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ syndrome)
  • Even facial changes

Children that grind due to a breathing airway problem can have developmental issues.

Medically Reviewed on 5/31/2023