Teeth grinding (bruxism) is a disorder in which a person grinds, gnashes, or clenches his or her teeth while awake and/or asleep. While mild bruxism typically does not require treatment, severe bruxism can lead to head pain, jaw and tooth damage, and other complications.

Signs and symptoms

Especially those who suffer from sleep bruxism may be unaware of the condition until problems appear. Some symptoms that indicate bruxism are:

  • Noticeable teeth grinding or clenching
  • Flat, broken, damaged, or loose teeth
  • Eroding tooth enamel, exposing deep layers of the teeth
  • Intensifying tooth sensitivity
  • Sore mouth and jaw
  • Tightened jaw muscles
  • Ear pain
  • Dull headache starting at the temples
  • Cheek pain
  • Marks on the tongue

Treatment

Teeth grinding may be mild enough that it does not require treatment, and children often grow out of the condition. However, if the condition is severe, your dental care provider may offer treatment options such as biofeedback or behavior therapy, medication, or mouth guards. Stress-related bruxism can be treated through stress counseling, exercise, physical therapy, or muscle relaxants. Talk to your dentist about what could work best for you.

Prevention

To prevent or stop teeth grinding, take note of the following tips:

  • Reduce consumption of caffeine.
  • Do not drink alcohol as it has been shown to intensify teeth grinding.
  • Avoid chewing non-food items such as pens and fingernails.
  • Do not chew gum as it may train the jaw to clench.
  • Pay attention to your clenching and grinding. Place your tongue between your teeth to train your jaw muscles to relax.
  • Place a warm cloth on your cheeks in front of the ears to relax your jaw muscles before bed.

 

Regular visits to the dentist are important to identify issues like teeth grinding to reduce the risk of damage to the teeth, mouth, and jaw.