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Home > Services > Dentistry > Dental Conditions > Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)

Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)

Bruxism is chronic, involuntary grinding or clenching of teeth. It usually occurs during sleep, but it may also occur while awake.

The exact cause of bruxism is unknown, but it's believed to be related to:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Abnormal alignment of the teeth or jaws

Risk Factors

Risk factors that increases your chance of getting bruxism include:

  • Chronic stress or anxiety
  • Aggressive or competitive personality
  • Smoking tobacco or drinking caffeinated beverages
  • Drugs or alcohol abuse
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Age: 40 or younger; especially common in women aged 27-40
  • Family member with bruxism
  • Facial or oral trauma
  • Use of psychiatric medications, especially antidepressants
  • Prior serious head injury

Symptoms of Teeth Grinding

Symptoms may include:

  • Grinding sounds during sleep
  • Teeth that are sensitive to heat, cold or brushing
  • Tense facial or jaw muscles
  • Teeth that are worn down, flattened, fractured or chipped
  • Hairline cracks or wearing of the enamel on some teeth
  • Sore teeth
  • Gingivitis
  • Headache, especially when waking in the morning
  • Damage to the inside of the cheek (from biting or chewing)
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD)

Diagnosis & Treatment

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, medical history and perform a physical exam. Bruxism causes teeth to have flattened tips, excessive wear, thin enamel or sensitivity. Your doctor may order X-rays to check for further damage to your teeth or the underlying bone.

Behavioral or Cognitive Treatment

This method focuses on changing behavior through various techniques, such as:

  • Biofeedback
  • Stress management
  • Relaxation therapy or exercises

Orthodontic Treatment

Your dentist may recommend:

  • A protective mouth appliance, such as a night guard that can absorb the pressure of constant night grinding
  • Correction of misaligned teeth


Medication is only recommended for short-term use. Medications may include:

  • Muscle relaxants before sleep
  • Mild sleeping aids
  • Injection of botulinum toxin (Botox) in severe cases 

Bruxism that is not treated may result in gum damage, tooth loss and jaw-related disorders.

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Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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