Bruxism – Grinding of the Teeth

Bruxism is a habit of grinding or clenching the teeth.

Some people grind their teeth only during sleep; this condition is called “nocturnal bruxism” or “sleep-related bruxism.” Others grind their teeth during the daytime as well, most often during situations that make them feel tense or anxious. People with severe bruxism can fracture dental fillings or cause other types of tooth damage.

Severe bruxism has also been blamed for some cases of temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD), mysterious morning headaches and unexplained facial pain.

Bruxism can have a variety of psychological and physical causes. In many cases, it has been linked to stress, but it can also simply be the body’s reaction to the teeth being aligned wrong or a poor bite (the way the teeth come together). Bruxism can sometimes occur as a complication of severe brain injury, or a symptom of certain rare neuromuscular diseases involving the face. Bruxism also can be an uncommon side effect of some psychiatric medications, including antidepressant medications, including fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil).


Symptoms of Bruxism

Unless your teeth grinding is noticed by your bed partner (grinding can cause enough noise to disturb other people’s sleep), chances are good that your dentist will notice the problem before you do. A dental exam may reveal signs of:

  • Enamel loss.
  • Flat chewing surfaces.
  • Loose teeth.
  • Fractures in teeth.
  • Broken fillings.
  • Signs of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.

Symptoms bruxers are more likely to notice themselves are headaches, earaches, sore jaw muscles, and “popping” sounds in the jaw (a sign of TMJ damage or an out of balance jaw).

Causes of Teeth Grinding

Stress, anxiety and anger are the most common causes of jaw clenching in adults, and highly competitive “Type A” personalities are often prone to bruxism. Some sleep disorders can aggravate the condition, as can alcohol consumption and some medications. Dental problems, including improper alignment of upper and lower teeth, can also lead to clenching and grinding.

Treatment Options for Teeth Grinding

Bruxism treatment depends on each individual’s situation. Our dentist may recommend one or more treatments for you, such as:

  • Splints.
  • A protective “night guard” worn over the teeth while sleeping.
  • Medication for pain or muscle spasms.
  • Fillings or other dental treatment to repair damaged teeth.
  • Onlays, or Crowns on misaligned teeth.
  • Behaviour Therapy.
  • Alternative Therapies.
  • Counseling, and stress management.
  • Sometimes, drugs such as Botox or muscle relaxants are used for severe cases of bruxism.

Bruxism may not always need treatment but it should be evaluated by one of our dentists; this is especially the case for children, who may grow out of this condition.