Bruxism: What You Should Know

Bruxism (excessive teeth-grinding) is a sleep disorder that affects both adults and children. The grinding can cause headaches and jaw pain. Teeth-grinding affects mostly your bicuspids and wears down or erodes the enamel surface of your teeth. Bruxism may be characterized by grinding from side to side or front to back, or by clenching teeth (up and down).

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Bruxism most commonly occurs and night (hence considering it a sleep disorder). This grinding of teeth can, however, occur during the daytime. It tends to be milder during the daytime because you are awake and, presumably, have greater control of your actions. Teeth grinding at night exerts significantly more force than teeth grinding during the day.

Affecting about 40 million Americans, bruxism can cause irreversible damage to your teeth. It also contributes to a number of health problems when not treated. It is a common causal factor in the development of Temporomandibular Joint Disorders. (The temporomandibular joint connects your skull to your jaw.)


Bruxism is identified by a number of signs and symptoms. You may experience one symptom or several. A dentist is often the first person to note and identify these symptoms. Unless you have a good bit of pain, you may not notice the signs of wear that occur over time.

  1. Worn or chipped teeth.
  2. TMJ pain in the jaw, face, or neck.
  3. Headaches.
  4. Earaches.
  5. Sore gums and teeth.
  6. Inability to get restful sleep.


Bruxism often begins with stress teeth-grinding. This may then lead to or reveal other causes.

  1. Stress or Anxiety.
  2. Smoking cigarettes.
  3. Prescription medications and over-the-counter medications.
  4. Sleep apnea or snoring.
  5. Parkinson’s Disease.
  6. Caffeine.
  7. Drinking alcohol.

Prevention and Treatment

One way to treat or prevent bruxism is wearing a teeth-grinding night mouth guard or bite guard. These guards are available over-the-counter. The best-fitting and most effective are the guards fitted or made by a dentist.

Sometimes recent dental work can cause your teeth to be misaligned. Clenching your teeth seems to alleviate the discomfort. This problem is easily resolved with a return trip to your dentist.