What is teeth grinding (bruxism)?

Most people grind and clench their teeth from time to time. This occasional grinding usually does not cause harm.

When teeth grinding occurs on a regular basis, it is a medical condition called bruxism. The teeth, temporomandibular joints (TMJs), and/or jaw muscles can all be affected.

Why is teeth grinding harmful?

In some cases, chronic teeth grinding can result in fracturing, loosening, or loss of teeth. The chronic grinder may wear his or her teeth significantly, resulting in aesthetic problems, and changes in facial profile. The TMJs and muscles of mastication (chewing) can be negatively affected by the excessive forces of teeth grinding.

Is teeth grinding a problem only for adults?

The problem of teeth grinding is not limited to adults. Approximately 15% to 33% of children grind their teeth.

Most commonly, children grind their teeth during sleep rather than during waking hours. Parents often hear their children grinding their teeth during sleep. Grinding of deciduous (baby) teeth rarely results in problems. However, teeth grinding can cause jaw pain, headaches, wear on the teeth, and TMJ disease in children. Consult your dentist if your child’s teeth look worn or if your child complains of symptoms.

Why do people grind their teeth?

Research has shown that grinding starts as a type of sleep disturbance in the central nervous system and is affected by stress and anxiety, alcohol, smoking, diseases, trauma, heredity, and certain drugs.

Bruxism has several causes, and no one factor is associated with bruxism for all people. Current studies have shown bruxism to be modulated by neurotransmitters in the central nervous system.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/10/2017.


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