Conditions,  Health

Bruxism (teeth grinding) – Treatment, Mouth Guard, Causes, Botox, Exercises, Symptoms

Key Facts

  • Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is a condition characterized by the clenching, grinding, or gnashing of teeth
  • It can occur during the day or at night, with nighttime grinding known as sleep bruxism
  • Chronic teeth grinding can cause headaches, jaw disorders, and damage to the teeth
  • Various treatment options are available, ranging from dental interventions to lifestyle modifications

What is bruxism or teeth grinding

Teeth grinding, medically known as bruxism, is a condition where an individual involuntarily grinds, gnashes, or clenches their teeth. This can occur during the day (awake bruxism) or at night while sleeping (sleep bruxism). Sleep bruxism is often considered a sleep-related movement disorder and is more challenging to control since it occurs unconsciously.
Bruxism can affect both children and adults and can range from mild to severe. In mild cases, it might not need treatment, but in severe cases, it can lead to jaw disorders, headaches, damaged teeth, and other issues.
How common is bruxism? Bruxism is relatively common, affecting about 8-30% of the population. The prevalence can vary depending on age, as sleep bruxism is more common in children, while awake bruxism is more common in adults.

Bruxism classification: what are the types of bruxism?

Bruxism is classified into two main types:

  1. Awake Bruxism: Awake bruxism refers to the involuntary grinding or clenching of teeth during waking hours. This is often associated with emotional stress, anxiety, concentration, or certain habits and may not always be accompanied by sounds of grinding.
  2. Sleep Bruxism: Sleep bruxism occurs during sleep and is considered a sleep-related movement disorder. This type involves more forceful grinding and is often associated with arousals during sleep.

What is primary bruxism and secondary bruxism?

  1. Primary Bruxism: This type of bruxism has no underlying medical cause and is considered idiopathic. It can occur independently and is often linked to psychological factors such as stress and anxiety.
  2. Secondary Bruxism: Secondary bruxism is associated with an underlying medical condition or is induced by certain medications. Examples include bruxism resulting from Parkinson’s disease or as a side effect of antidepressants.

Why Is Teeth Grinding Harmful?

Teeth grinding is harmful because it can cause damage to the teeth and jaw and negatively affect overall health. The constant pressure and friction can erode tooth enamel, lead to jaw disorders, and cause chronic pain. If left unmanaged, it can also result in costly dental restorations.

Risk Factors for teeth grinding

Understanding the risk factors associated with teeth grinding, or bruxism, is an essential first step in preventing and managing this condition. Several factors can increase the likelihood of teeth grinding, including:

  • Stress and Anxiety: Individuals experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety are more likely to develop bruxism.
  • Age: Bruxism is more common in children and usually fades away by adulthood. However, it can persist in some adults.
  • Family History: Genetics plays a role, as people whose family members have bruxism are more likely to have it too.
  • Medications and Substances: The use of psychotropic medications, especially antidepressants, as well as tobacco, caffeine, or recreational drugs, can increase the risk of bruxism.
  • Sleep Disorders: People with sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, insomnia, or snoring are more likely to grind their teeth at night.
  • Personality Traits: Competitive, aggressive, or hyperactive personality types are more prone to bruxism.

Causes of Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding or bruxism can be caused by various factors:

  • Emotional Stress and Anxiety: Often, people grind their teeth in response to stress, frustration or anxiety, even during sleep.
  • Coping or Focus Mechanism: Some individuals grind their teeth as a way to cope with stress or to increase focus and concentration.
  • Sleep Disorders: Conditions such as sleep apnea are associated with teeth grinding. Those with sleep disorders may involuntarily grind their teeth during sleep cycles.
  • Medications and Substances: Certain antidepressants and psychoactive substances can cause bruxism.
  • Lifestyle Factors: Consuming tobacco, caffeine, or alcohol can increase the risk of teeth grinding.
  • Dental Misalignment: Crooked, misaligned teeth, or an abnormal bite can sometimes cause grinding.
  • Neurological Disorders: Conditions such as Parkinson’s disease are associated with increased teeth grinding.
  • Genetics: Some individuals may have a family history of bruxism.
  • Other Disorders: Conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and ADHD are associated with teeth grinding.

Symptoms of Teeth Grinding

Identifying if you grind your teeth can be challenging, especially if it occurs during sleep. Signs include:

  • Worn tooth enamel, exposing the inner layers of the tooth
  • Waking up with a sore jaw or headaches
  • Increased tooth sensitivity
  • Jaw pain or tightness in the jaw muscles
  • Chronic headaches, particularly upon waking, also dull headaches starting at the temples
  • Damage from chewing on the inside of the cheek
  • A partner or family member noticing the sound of grinding during your sleep
  • Disrupted sleep or difficulty falling asleep

Bruxism is often diagnosed through a dental examination. The dentist may look for unusual wear patterns on the teeth, damage to the teeth, and tenderness in the jaw muscles. Patient history and reports from bed partners may also be considered. For sleep bruxism, a sleep study may be recommended.

Complications of Bruxism

Chronic teeth grinding, if not addressed, can lead to a range of complications:

  • Tooth Damage: Continuous grinding wears down the tooth enamel and can lead to chipping, fracturing, or loss of teeth.
  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorders: Bruxism can strain the jaw and lead to disorders affecting the jaw joint.
  • Facial Pain and Headaches: The stress on the jaw muscles can cause facial pain and frequent tension headaches.
  • Sleep Disruption: For those with sleep bruxism, the grinding can disturb sleep quality.
  • Increased Tooth Sensitivity: Worn enamel can make the teeth more sensitive to temperature or touch.

Treatments: How to Reduce Teeth Grinding


  • Dental Appliances: Wear a mouthguard or splint – consult your dentist about wearing a mouthguard or splint at night to protect your teeth
  • Manage Stress: Engage in relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, or meditation
  • Maintain Regular Sleep Patterns: Establish a sleep routine to improve sleep quality
  • Cut Back on Stimulants: Reduce consumption of caffeinated beverages and tobacco


  • Chew Non-Food Items: Avoid chewing gum or other non-food items as this encourages the jaw muscles to clench more
  • Consume Excessive Alcohol: Alcohol can intensify teeth grinding during sleep
  • Ignore Dental Care: Neglecting regular dental check-ups can allow problems to go unnoticed.
  • Ignore the symptoms of teeth grinding: If you notice any of the symptoms you should book an immediate consultation with a dentist.

Treatments for Teeth Grinding

Treatments from a Dentist

  • Dental Approaches: A dentist might fit you with a mouthguard or splint to protect your teeth from grinding during sleep.
  • Dental Correction: In cases where teeth grinding is due to misaligned teeth, the dentist may recommend braces or other orthodontic treatments.
  • Restoration: If teeth grinding has led to damaged teeth, the dentist might perform restorations using crowns or overlays.

Treatments from a Doctor (General Practitioner)

  • Medication: Sometimes, muscle relaxants or Botox injections are used to alleviate grinding.
  • Stress Management and Behavioral Therapy: If teeth grinding is due to stress or anxiety, a doctor might refer you to a psychologist or counselor. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is sometimes used.
  • Treating Sleep Disorders: For sleep-related bruxism, treating the underlying sleep disorder is crucial.

Do Children Grind Their Teeth?

Yes, children can grind their teeth, and it is fairly common among toddlers and school-aged children. The causes can range from misaligned teeth and irritation in the mouth to stress or hyperactivity. While many children outgrow bruxism, it is important to monitor the condition and consult a pediatric dentist if the child complains of jaw pain, or there are signs of significant wear on the teeth.

What else should I ask my provider about bruxism?

You may want to ask your provider about the best treatment options for you, whether you should see a specialist, and what lifestyle changes can help manage bruxism.
Questions to ask your doctor about bruxism:

  • What is the likely cause of my bruxism?
  • What are the treatment options?
  • Do I need a nightguard?
  • How can I manage stress to reduce bruxism?
  • Should I avoid certain foods or drinks?
  • What steps can I take to prevent further dental damage?

Other questions related to teeth grinding that you have asked us

What’s the outlook for people with bruxism?

The outlook for individuals with bruxism varies depending on the severity and underlying cause. With proper management and treatment, many people experience relief from symptoms and prevent further dental damage.

How can I best take care of my jaw and teeth?

To take care of your jaw and teeth, it’s important to maintain good oral hygiene, wear a nightguard if prescribed, avoid excessive caffeine or alcohol, manage stress, and attend regular dental check-ups.

Can bruxism cause tinnitus?

Yes, bruxism can be associated with tinnitus, which is ringing or buzzing in the ears, as the muscles and joints of the jaw are closely connected to the ear.

Is bruxism hereditary?

Bruxism can have a hereditary component, and individuals with family members who experience bruxism are at a higher risk.

Is bruxism a sleep disorder?

Sleep bruxism is considered a sleep-related movement disorder. Those with sleep bruxism may have other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.

What is Biofeedback therapy for bruxism?

Biofeedback therapy is a technique used to help individuals gain control over involuntary bodily processes. For bruxism, this might involve using electronic instruments to measure muscle activity of the jaw. The patient is then made aware of this activity through sounds or visual cues, helping them recognize and control the clenching or grinding behavior.

Bruxism Pronunciation

Sometimes patients have problems with pronunciation of the word bruxism – it is pronounced as BRUK-siz-um.

Bottom Line

Teeth grinding is a common condition that can seriously impact your dental health and lead to complications such as dental abscesses. It’s important to recognize the symptoms early and seek appropriate treatment. Addressing the underlying causes, whether they are stress-related, due to sleep disorders, or other issues, is crucial. Regular dental check-ups are key in managing teeth grinding and maintaining oral health. If you suspect you might be grinding your teeth, don’t hesitate to consult your dentist or healthcare provider for guidance and treatment options.

This article is complete and was published on June 19, 2023, and last updated on August 25, 2023.

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