Do you or a loved one grind your teeth?
Bruxism is a condition in which you grind, gnash or clench your teeth. If you have bruxism, you may unconsciously clench your teeth together during the day, or clench or grind them at night (sleep bruxism).
Signs and symptoms of bruxism may include:
- Teeth grinding or clenching, which may be loud enough to awaken your sleep partner
- Teeth that are flattened, fractured, chipped or loose
- Worn tooth enamel, exposing deeper layers of your tooth
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Jaw or face pain or soreness
- Tired or tight jaw muscles
- Pain that feels like an earache, though it’s actually not a problem with your ear
- Dull headache originating in the temples
- Damage from chewing on the inside of your cheek
- Indentations on your tongue
When to see a doctor
See your doctor or dentist if:
- Your teeth are worn, damaged or sensitive
- You have pain in your jaw, face or ear
- Others complain that you make a grinding noise while you sleep
- You have a locked jaw that won’t open or close completely
If you notice that your child is grinding his or her teeth — or has other signs or symptoms of bruxism — be sure to mention it at your child’s next dental appointment.
Doctors don’t completely understand what causes bruxism. Possible physical or psychological causes may include:
- Emotions, such as anxiety, stress, anger, frustration or tension
- Aggressive, competitive or hyperactive personality type
- Abnormal alignment of upper and lower teeth (malocclusion)
- Other sleep problems, such as sleep apnea
- Response to pain from an earache or teething (in children)
- Stomach acid reflux into the esophagus
- An uncommon side effect of some psychiatric medications, such as phenothiazines or certain antidepressants
- A coping strategy or focusing habit
- Complication resulting from a disorder such as Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s disease
These factors increase your risk of bruxism:
- Stress. Increased anxiety or stress can lead to teeth grinding. So can anger and frustration.
- Age. Bruxism is common in young children, but it usually goes away by the teen years.
- Personality type. Having a personality type that is aggressive, competitive or hyperactive can increase your risk of bruxism.
- Stimulating substances. Smoking tobacco, drinking caffeinated beverages or alcohol, or taking illegal drugs such as methamphetamine or Ecstasy may increase the risk of bruxism.
Severe bruxism may lead to:
- Damage to your teeth, restorations, crowns or jaw
- Tension-type headaches
- Facial pain
- Disorders that occur in the temporomandibular joints (TMJs), located just in front of your ears, which may sound like clicking when you open and close your mouth