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Overview - Teeth grinding (bruxism)

Teeth grinding (also called bruxism) is often related to stress or anxiety. There are things you can do to help and treatments available from a dentist or GP.

Causes of teeth grinding

It’s not always clear what causes teeth grinding.

It’s often linked to:

Teeth grinding is common in children and teenagers, particularly during sleep. It often stops when they reach adulthood and their adult teeth have come through.

How to reduce teeth grinding

There are a number of things you can try that may help if you grind your teeth.

Do

  • find ways to relax – for example, by doing breathing exercises, listening to music and taking regular exercise

  • try to improve your sleep by going to bed at the same time every night, relaxing before bedtime and making sure your bedroom is dark and quiet

  • try jaw exercises, such as stretching the jaw muscles by opening your mouth as wide as you can and repeating it 10 times, once or twice a day

  • take painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen if you have jaw pain or swelling

  • use an ice pack (or bag of frozen peas) wrapped in a towel for 20 to 30 minutes to help reduce jaw pain or swelling

  • have regular dental check-ups

Don’t

  • do not smoke

  • do not drink too much alcohol

  • do not take drugs like ecstasy or cocaine

  • do not chew gum or eat hard foods if you have tooth or jaw pain

Symptoms of teeth grinding

Teeth grinding can happen while you’re awake or asleep.

As well as grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw, other symptoms can include:

Non-urgent advice: See a dentist if:

  • you grind your teeth and have tooth damage or sensitivity
  • you grind your teeth and have pain in your jaw, face or ear
  • your partner says you're grinding your teeth in your sleep
  • you're worried about your child grinding their teeth

See a GP if you need help with some of the causes of teeth grinding, such as stress, anxiety, smoking, drinking too much or taking drugs.

Information:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: how to contact a GP

It's still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

Find out about using the NHS during COVID-19

Treatments for teeth grinding

Treatment for teeth grinding is not always needed.

Treatments from a dentist

A dentist may recommend a mouth guard or mouth splint. These are worn at night and protect your teeth from damage. They can be made by a dentist to fit precisely over your upper or lower teeth

Mouth splints are more expensive than mouth guards but last longer.

Treatments from a GP

A GP can give you advice and recommend treatments for reducing stress.

They will also be able to help if you want to give up smoking, or if you need advice about drug addiction or cutting down on alcohol.

Page last reviewed: 04 May 2020
Next review due: 04 May 2023