Teeth Grinding: An Overview

Teeth grinding, called bruxism, is a condition that causes you to grind, clench or gnash your teeth. You may also clench your teeth together without realizing you’re doing it. Grinding them at night is known as sleep bruxism.

Depending on the degree of bruxism you have, it may, or may not, require you to get treatment. Mild bruxism typically doesn’t require treatment. However, if it’s frequent and severe enough, it can cause headaches, jaw disorders, and damaged teeth among other issues. Since it’s possible to have sleep bruxism and not know it until you’re seeing the complications from it, you need to know the signs and symptoms, and to get regular dental checkups.

The symptoms and signs of bruxism include:

  • Teeth clenching or grinding while sleeping that may be so loud as to wake up your partner.
  • Having teeth that are fractured, chipped, flattened or worn down.
  • Developing worn tooth enamel that exposes the deeper layers of the tooth.
  • More acute tooth sensitivity.
  • Pain or tightness in the jaw muscles.
  • Earache due to severe contractions of the jaw muscle.
  • Headache.
  • Chronic face pain.
  • Inside cheek tissue that’s chewed.
  • Tongue indentations.

Be sure to see your dentist if your teeth become worn, sensitive or damaged, you develop jaw, face or ear pain, or others tell you of the grinding noise you make while you sleep.

No one really understands what causes bruxism. There are, however, possible physical or psychological issues include:

  • Stress, tension or anxiety.
  • Repressed anger or frustration.
  • Personality of aggressiveness, competitiveness or hyperactivity.
  • Changes in sleep cycles.
  • Abnormal alignment of lower and upper teeth.
  • In children, a response to pain from teething or an earache.
  • Complications from such disorders as Parkinson’s disease or Huntington’s disease.
  • A rare side effect from certain psychiatric medications.

While definitive causes aren’t certain, there are a couple of factors that can increase your risk of developing bruxism. These include increased stress or anxiety that can cause teeth to grind, and age, since it’s common in young children. Bruxism typically disappears by the time adolescence begins.

Most of the time, bruxism doesn’t result in serious complications. However, severe bruxism may cause damage to your teeth and/or jaw, give you tension headaches, facial pain, and TMJ disorders.

Once you notice any of these symptoms, you’ll most likely start by seeing your dentist. Sometimes you may be referred to a sleep specialist. Since most appointments are brief in nature, you need to make a list of all questions you have before you go.

This will save time while ensuring that you’ll get your questions answered in the time allotted to you. In addition, be prepared to answer some questions yourself. These will include such things as when you first noticed any symptoms, are they constant or occasional, and how severe they are. You’ll also most likely be asked if there’s anything that lessens or worsens the symptoms.

Most cases of bruxism are mild and will not require treatment. The more severe cases of it will be treated through different types of therapy, a splint, correcting misaligned teeth, and mouth guards. Medications are generally not suggested in the treatment of bruxism as it is typically ineffective. The exception to this is if your dentist prescribes a muscle relaxant to take at bedtime.

Bruxism is, admittedly, a rather annoying and, often, miserable affliction. However, it doesn’t have to ruin your life or your teeth. Working together with your dentist, you can most likely find the perfect solution.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

IIWYM January 6, 2011 at 7:11 am

I am beginning to have problems with my teeth, and some of your symptoms make me a little concerned. I have never had problems with my teeth, but lately they have been bothering me. Now, I need to ask my wife if she hears me grinding.

Samantha January 6, 2011 at 10:31 am


Bruxism is a serious condition, with serious complications. You should visit a dentist if you grind your teeth, awake or in sleep.

Thanks for the visit:)


Elise January 7, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Hi Samantha, I thought I’d come check out your site. 🙂 It’s funny, I’m totally a a teeth grinder!

I have a mouth guard custom fit to my mouth that I wear at night. My dentist checks it every 6 months when I go in. It actually has some scrape marks in it, which shows how much I grind my teeth at night.

I’d say it’s really worth getting a mouth guard. My teeth would be ruined without it.

Samantha January 8, 2011 at 3:27 am

Hi Elise,

Yes, is a bit funny that you grind your teeth. A mouth guard seems to be the best solution for protecting your teeth. What is the cause of your teeth grinding? 🙂
Thanks for the visit and comment!

Tristan January 18, 2011 at 2:30 am

It’s interesting that the cause of bruxism (I learned a new word today!) is unknown. Hmmm…

Those symptoms sound absolutely terrible! All I can say is… I’m glad I don’t have this problem. At least… I don’t think I do, and my dentist hasn’t said anything 🙂

Samantha January 18, 2011 at 10:52 am

Tristan: You don’t suffer from Bruxism, you would have known by now 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

Abhimanyu January 28, 2011 at 4:42 am

I too grind my teeth in the night. It seems that I should better get a mouthguard for myself. But I don’t think that it is due to any stress.

Gautam A D April 24, 2011 at 9:57 am

my god i really got scared after reading this article. didn’t know bruxism can develop so many dangerous complications. thank god i dont have it. thanx for this awesome article samantha! 🙂 🙂

Kristi June 10, 2011 at 6:55 am

Hi Samantha,
I enjoyed your information. Everything that you said is true. I have been grinding for years and years and it really hasn’t bothered me (or my husband) until a few years ago. I have a constant chronic headache, ear pain, face pain, and jaw pain. I was fitted for a special night guard from my dentist that cost $300. That hasn’t taken away my pain, it just keeps my teeth from wearing down. Plus, it does have grooves in it which my dentist calls “railroad tracks”. It is pretty worn. I have also been to the chiropractor and his massage therapist with no results. I am now currently seeing an acupuncturist and that isn’t helping either. I am a stay-at-home mom with little to no stress and I am very happy in life. My pain never stops and it is very depressing. I don’t know what else to do or how to stop my pain or how to stop the grinding. Do you have anything to offer that I could try??? Please help.

Cheolsu June 24, 2011 at 12:25 am

Samantha, It was good to learn the symptoms and possible causes of bruxism during my first visit to this blog. I will keep a eye on those symptoms and would consult my dentist if the need arises. For the time being, I need to work on my Stress and Anxiety levels as I see a lot of side effects of it.

Linda August 5, 2011 at 11:34 pm

I actually have noticed myself grinding on a few teeth but it is stress, just like eye twitching – all due from stress. Sometimes it is hard to avoid it in your every day life and too bad your body has to react to it the way it does. No dental insurance here, so nothing will be fixed any time soon.

I just keep on chugging – only thing I can do!

Thanks for the great article!

Frank August 18, 2011 at 11:03 am


I got this weird feeling that you take dental heatlh seriously. I am glad I came by. I am the guy who by luck hasn’t had any major dental issues. Don’t get me wrong, I brush and floss as requested. I just really, really, really don’t like the dentist. 🙂 I would say more but I have got to read more on how to stop grinding my teeth while I am sleep.

James August 18, 2011 at 6:41 pm

Hi Samantha,
I have been grinding my teeth for almost six months now.Anxiety is the culprit in my case fearing that something bad will happen to my teeth.I know its irrational but I simply couldn’t let go.I wear a mouth guard but still worries really”too much” about my grinding and its complications as if its life threatening to the point where I stay up all night. Is this really a worrying issues? Thanks for your advice.

Elizabeth September 13, 2011 at 12:33 am

Im suffering terribly from bruxism and tmj. Went to the doctors today for symptoms of headaches, ear infection, very sore throat etc. Well to my suprise the doctor advised I head to my dentist a.s.a.p. I already have a custom mouth piece, 500.00 dollars later, which is worn out and feels not so right on random nights. Omg, this is driving me crazy !!!

Robert September 15, 2011 at 2:19 am

does that teeth grinding habit also coarse out and degrade the enamel on teeth? My nephew has it and am really worried if he will grow up to have discolored or deformed teeth. Not very popular among teens that, you know! 🙂

Brandy September 20, 2011 at 11:56 am

I started grinding my teeth as a teenager, when my point, fanglike teeth started to loose their pointiness. I didn’t really see this as a negative. At the time I didn’t realize that I was grinding my teeth, I jus thought that everyone and a while, during sleeping, I would bite down really hard and chip my teeth (it would wake me up). Once in my 20s, I started wearing a nightguard I got at the drugstore. It’s a little on the expensive side, but it isn’t bulky and is quite comfortable. My jaw pain is completely gone and my teeth really don’t hurt as much any more. HOWEVER. After wearing the mouthguard for about 2 years, I have noticed that the gum surrounding my back molars has started to recede where the guard has been touching it. As gums don’t grow back, I am kind of in a dilemma. I don’t want to stop wearing the mouth guard as it protects my teeth from further chipping and eliminates my jaw pain, but I can’t let my gums continue to recede by wearing the mouth guard. I’ve tried to flip the guard upside down and wear it on my top teeth, but that hasn’t been too successful. So. So. Lame.

Samantha H January 31, 2012 at 4:55 pm

The past 2 weeks, have noticed headaches in my forehead, ears hurt, cheek bones hurt,and my teeth hurt too. Been really thinking about different things like caffeine headache but those are really painful and all over head, the headaches I have not are just in my forehead. I have been out of work for the last 6 months so I have felt a little frustrated with paying bills on time and my husband travels with his work and not home for 2 months at a time. I have noticed that I clench my teeth during the day, I can’t imagine what I do in my sleep, I wake up with a headache so that’s a sign their too. Do the nightguards help with the clenching of the teeth?? Help!!!!!!

Jersey Girl February 7, 2012 at 12:54 pm

I have just recently discovered that I grind/clench my teeth when I sleep. Also discovered I was unconsciously doing it during the day, as well. Have been under a lot of stress the last four years–out of work, money problems, etc. No doubt in my mind that stress and anxiety add to or cause this problem, as a couple of months ago, I had to sleep with a towel on my pillow because I slept always with my mouth open and my pillows would be ruined very quickly. That’s when I discovered the clenching. Always did it when I was angry or frustrated, but to my knowledge never in sleep. So, now adding to the previous anxiety is more insofar as I am afraid I will damage my teeth when I sleep and am afraid to go to sleep. Since I am retired, the sleep loss does not affect me as badly as if I was still working. Right now, I sleep about seven hours every third night or so. Otherwise, about four hours. What is really interesting is that when I wake up in the morning, I am not clenching my teeth. I really notice it most when I am dropping off and if I wake up after about half an hour or forty minutes or so. Otherwise, it’s not that bad. But I know this can’t continue or it will ruin my health .

Jersey Girl February 7, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Just thought of something else—I read that caffiene and alcohol magnify this problem. Can’t give up my coffee–but have cut down to one cup per day. Also stopped having glass of wine with dinner. Too early to tell if it will have any effect. Bought some disposable mouth guards today—going to try them tonight. I am so afraid of waking up some morning and finding I have fractured a tooth or worse. My sympathies to all who have this problem. I have started to pray a lot.

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