Teeth grinding (bruxism) 


Bruxism is the medical term used to describe teeth grinding and jaw clenching 

Who is affected by bruxism?

About 8%-10% of the UK population are thought to be affected by teeth grinding. It can occur in both children and adults, although it is most common in adults between the ages of 25 and 44.

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Bruxism is a medical term that describes the act of grinding the teeth and clenching the jaw.

Sometimes, people grind their teeth without it causing any symptoms or problems. However, regular and persistent teeth grinding can cause pain and discomfort in your jaw and it can wear down your teeth.

Teeth grinding can also cause headaches and earache.

Read more about the symptoms of bruxism.

Most cases of teeth grinding (nearly 80%) occur subconsciously during sleep. It is usually associated with contributing factors, such as stress or anxiety (see below).

Bruxism also affects people when they are awake, although this is more likely to be clenching the teeth and jaw, rather than grinding. Most people do it subconsciously while they are concentrating.  

What causes bruxism?

Bruxism almost always occurs in association with other factors. About 70% of bruxism cases that occur during sleep are thought be related to stress and anxiety.

There is also a strong association between bruxism and obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). OSA is a sleep disorder where your breathing is interrupted during your sleep.

Teeth grinding can also be caused by taking certain antidepressants. Your lifestyle can also have an effect. For example, regularly drinking alcohol, smoking and using recreational drugs, such as ecstasy and cocaine, increase your risk of bruxism.

Doctors sometimes refer to teeth grinding that is caused by an underlying condition as "primary bruxism" and teeth grinding associated with a medication, condition or your lifestyle as "secondary bruxism".

Read more about the causes of bruxism.

Treating bruxism

There are a number of possible treatments for teeth grinding but only a few have been shown to be effective.

Behavioural therapies and the use of mouth guards, mouth splints and mandibular advancement devices (MADs) are recommended treatments for bruxism.

Other treatments, such as muscle-relaxation exercises and sleep hygiene, may also help manage your symptoms.

If you grind your teeth while you are asleep, you may need to wear a mouth guard, mouth splint or a MAD at night to protect your teeth from further damage.

If you have an anxiety or stress-related problem, a course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may be recommended. CBT aims to manage your problems by changing how you think and act.

It may be possible to break the habit of teeth grinding using habit-reversal techniques.

Making some simple lifestyle changes, such as giving up smoking (if you smoke), reducing your alcohol consumption and managing stress may also help.

Read more about treating bruxism.

Page last reviewed: 28/08/2012

Next review due: 28/08/2014


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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

smitey86 said on 18 December 2013

I was recently diagnosed with Bruxism, which in all honesty I did not know I had until a new private dentist noticed the damage and brought it to my attention. The cause of my Bruxism is not any of the listed causes above, but is instead caused by my jaw which is slightly out of alignment, leading to an irregular bite and consequently teeth grinding.

I am 27 years old and my dentist believes that I have lost between 3-4 MM from the length of my teeth, which may not sound like a lot on paper but with the work I have had done to restore my teeth you can clearly see the difference.

symptoms may not always developed in relation to teeth grinding until your teeth beginning chipping and cracking apart, in my experience if you are concerned you have Bruxism then simply check and analyse your teeth. In my case my front two teeth were the most obvious indicator of teeth grinding, as the bottom of the teeth appeared upon close inspection to be jagged and uneven, with a slightly sharp and rough feel when rubbed over with my tongue. You may also notice that your bottom teeth are slightly rounded on top, or jagged from the contact with the above teeth.

It is also worth checking your canines, which should naturally have a more pointed and prominent end but had deformed considerably in my case. In fact both my canines and the teeth below my canines (on my bottom jaw) now slotted together with my jaw closed like a jigsaw puzzle, with both teeth demonstrating a straight and jagged edge where the teeth met which is not natural and also the case with all the rest of my teeth, both bottom and top. A good indicator of long term grinding.

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