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Teeth Grinding Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is an involuntary habitual grinding or clenching of the teeth, typically during sleep. It is a common problem affecting approximately 30-40 million people. While common, teeth grinding can be a serious problem leading to numerous dental problems. Issues associated with teeth grinding include:

  • Damage to the teeth
  • Headaches
  • Jaw problems/pain

Causes of Bruxism

The exact cause of bruxism is unknown, but physical, psychological and genetics may all be contributing factors. There are several risk factors, however, that may lead to bruxism. These include:

  • Stress
  • Age – generally more common in children and will stop in adulthood
  • A side effect of certain medications
  • Family history
  • Mental and medical disorders – such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), epilepsy, night terrors, sleep-related disorders such as sleep apnea, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)


As mentioned above, teeth grinding normally occurs when sleeping so many of us may be unaware that we are grinding or clenching our teeth while asleep. Symptoms of bruxism include:

  • Teeth grinding or clenching, which may be loud enough to wake up your sleep partner
  • Teeth that are flattened, fractured, chipped, or loose
  • Worn tooth enamel, exposing deeper layers of your tooth
  • Increased tooth pain or sensitivity
  • Tired or tight jaw muscles, or a locked jaw that won’t open or close completely
  • Jaw, neck, or face pain or soreness
  • Pain that feels like an earache
  • Dull headache starting in the temples
  • Damage from chewing on the inside of your cheek
  • Sleep disruption

If you feel like you may be experiencing signs of bruxism ask your dentist at your next visit. They can help determine if you are involuntarily grinding your teeth and provide treatment options.

Treatment Options

In most cases, children who grind their teeth will outgrow it without any treatment needed. Many adults may also experience mild bruxism and do not need treatment. However, if it is determined by your dentist that you need treatment they will likely recommend one or a combination of the following:

  • Mouthguard
  • Stress and anxiety management
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Botox

Remember your dentist is a resource for all of your dental questions. If you have more questions about bruxism or any other dental concerns let us know!