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Teeth grinding (bruxism) Dr Cathryn Madden Reviewed by Dr Cathryn Madden, Dentist

If you grind your teeth or clench your jaw, it might wear down your teeth or put strain on your jaw. Find out more about teeth grinding.

It’s common to grind or clench your teeth when you’re concentrating, stressed or angry. But if it happens too much, it might cause problems with your teeth or jaws.

Teeth grinding, also called bruxism, can weaken the outer layer of your teeth and increase your risk of problems like tooth decay, damaged teeth or jaw joint disorders. Talking to a dentist might help you understand any teeth grinding and what you can do to manage it.

Teeth grinding symptoms

You may already be aware that you’re grinding your teeth, but it’s not always obvious. Some people grind their teeth subconsciously or whilst sleeping. In those cases, it might help to be aware of potential symptoms.

Possible signs you’re grinding your teeth you sleep

  • pain in your head, neck, jaw or ear when you wake up
  • stiffness in your jaw or face
  • toothache or sensitivity to hot and cold food or drink
  • damaged or loose teeth.
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Why do people grind their teeth?

People may grind their teeth for physical or psychological reasons. Some people say they grind or clench their teeth when they feel angry or anxious, or when they're concentrating.

But sometimes the position of your teeth or jaw alignment can cause grinding. Some types of crooked teeth or improper jaw alignment may put extra stress on certain teeth, causing them to rub together.

Some health conditions, medications or drugs can also cause bruxism.

When is teeth grinding a problem?

If left untreated, teeth grinding might have long-term effects on your teeth and jaw.

Grinding and clenching puts pressure on your teeth, which weakens the enamel. This might make them chip or crack more easily. Dental restorations such as fillings and crowns can also be damaged by grinding.

Clenching the jaw can also strain the joints that connect the lower jaw to the skull (temporomandibular joints or TMJ). This can lead to TMJ disorder, associated with headaches and other aches or pains.

Grinding teeth during sleep can also be a warning sign of other sleep disorders that need attention, such as obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).

Potential solutions for teeth grinding

If you think that you or someone in your family might have bruxism, you should make an appointment with your dentist. They'll check your teeth for any signs of wear and ask you questions to help them identify the reason for your teeth grinding, so they can treat the cause as well as the symptoms.

Dental treatments

If your teeth are crooked or uneven, your dentist could recommend treatments to help them fit together normally. This might involve:

Bite splint

If you grind your teeth during sleep, your dentist might recommend an occlusal splint. This is a type of mouthguard that fits comfortably over your teeth and prevents them from touching.

While a bite splint can help to relieve the effects of teeth grinding in the short term, you might start grinding your teeth again if you stop wearing it.

Therapy

If you grind your teeth because you feel angry, stressed or worried, your dentist could refer you to a counselling service or recommend relaxation techniques.

Making positive changes in your life and trying to avoid bad feelings could stop you from grinding your teeth over time.

Medical treatments

Muscle relaxation medication could help you to stop grinding teeth in the short term, but if you have an underlying health problem that's causing bruxism, this will need to be diagnosed and treated by an appropriately qualified professional.

Sometimes, teeth grinding can go away on its own without treatment. This is especially common with children whose teeth and jaws are still developing. But it's still recommended to make an appointment with your dentist to be safe.

Speak with a professional

If you have any questions about teeth grinding or your dental health, consider making an appointment with a dentist.

Find a clinic near you.

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The purpose of this article is to promote better understanding of dental health topics. It’s not meant to replace professional advice or diagnosis. Always talk to a dentist, doctor or other qualified healthcare professional if you have a question about dental or medical conditions.

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