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.
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.
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.
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.
Because grinding often occurs during sleep, most people are unaware that they grind their teeth. Morning headaches, sore jaw muscles, fracture of teeth, and wear on teeth are often signs and symptoms of bruxism.
If you suspect you may be grinding your teeth, talk to your dentist. Your dentist can examine your TMJs, jaw muscles and teeth to evaluate for signs of bruxism.
At this time, there are no drugs or dental therapies to stop teeth grinding. However, your dentist can fit you with a night guard (orthotic) to protect your teeth, muscles and TMJs from excessive forces during the grinding episodes.
If stress is contributing to your bruxism, ask your doctor about options to reduce stress, and to review your medications that may contribute to bruxism. Attending stress counseling, starting an exercise program, seeing a physical therapist, or getting a prescription for muscle relaxants are among the options that may reduce the effects of bruxism.
Other tips to reduce teeth grinding include the following:
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 04/10/2017