Bruxism is a condition in which you grind, gnash or clench your teeth unconsciously when you're awake or while you're sleeping.
Bruxism (BRUK-siz-um) is a condition in which you grind, gnash or clench your teeth. If you have bruxism, you may unconsciously clench your teeth when you're awake (awake bruxism) or clench or grind them during sleep (sleep bruxism).
Sleep bruxism is considered a sleep-related movement disorder. People who clench or grind their teeth (brux) during sleep are more likely to have other sleep disorders, such as snoring and pauses in breathing (sleep apnea).
Mild bruxism may not require treatment. However, in some people, bruxism can be frequent and severe enough to lead to jaw disorders, headaches, damaged teeth and other problems.
Because you may have sleep bruxism and be unaware of it until complications develop, it's important to know the signs and symptoms of bruxism and to seek regular dental care.
Signs and symptoms of bruxism may include:
See your dentist or doctor if you have any of the symptoms listed above or have other concerns about your teeth or jaw.
If you notice that your child is grinding his or her teeth — or has other signs or symptoms of bruxism — be sure to mention it at your child's next dental appointment.
Doctors don't completely understand what causes bruxism, but it may be due to a combination of physical, psychological and genetic factors.
These factors increase your risk of bruxism:
In most cases, bruxism doesn't cause serious complications. But severe bruxism may lead to:
During regular dental exams, your dentist likely will check for signs of bruxism.
If you have any signs, your dentist looks for changes in your teeth and mouth over the next several visits to see if the process is progressive and to determine whether you need treatment.
If your dentist suspects that you have bruxism, he or she tries to determine its cause by asking questions about your general dental health, medications, daily routines and sleep habits.
To evaluate the extent of bruxism, your dentist may check for:
A dental exam may detect other disorders that can cause similar jaw or ear pain, such as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, other dental problems or health conditions.
If your bruxism seems to be related to major sleep issues, your doctor may recommend a sleep medicine specialist. A sleep medicine specialist can conduct more tests, such as a sleep study that will assess for episodes of teeth grinding and determine if you have sleep apnea or other sleep disorders.
If anxiety or other psychological issues seem related to your teeth grinding, you may be referred to a licensed therapist or counselor.
In many cases, treatment isn't necessary. Many kids outgrow bruxism without treatment, and many adults don't grind or clench their teeth badly enough to require therapy. However, if the problem is severe, options include certain dental approaches, therapies and medications to prevent more tooth damage and relieve jaw pain or discomfort.
Talk with your dentist or doctor to find out which option may work best for you.
If you or your child has bruxism, your doctor may suggest ways to preserve or improve your teeth. Although these methods may prevent or correct the wear to your teeth, they may not stop the bruxism:
One or more of these approaches may help relieve bruxism:
In general, medications aren't very effective for treatment of bruxism, and more research is needed to determine their effectiveness. Examples of medications that may be used for bruxism include:
Treatment for associated disorders may include:
These self-care steps may prevent or help treat bruxism:
You may start by seeing your dentist or your primary care doctor. In some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred to a sleep medicine specialist.
Prepare for your appointment by making a list of:
Basic questions to ask your doctor may include:
Don't hesitate to ask other questions during your appointment.
Be ready to answer questions from your doctor so that you can spend time on areas you want to focus on. Some questions your doctor may ask include: