What is bruxism and how do I treat it? Skip to main content

What is bruxism and how do I treat it?

Bruxism is the medical term for teeth grinding and includes gnashing or clenching your teeth. You can suffer from the condition unconsciously during the day (awake bruxism) or while you sleep (sleep bruxism).

Sleep bruxism is considered a sleep disorder and is often coupled with similar disorders such as sleep apnea or snoring. Awake bruxism is often caused by stress, anxiety, frustration or anger.

Common in children, mild bruxism can usually be outgrown over time and does not require treatment. In more severe cases, you should consult a dental professional.

Symptoms and complications of severe bruxism

It’s time to speak to a dentist when you experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Teeth grinding that is loud enough to wake you or your partner from sleep
  • Teeth that are flattened, fractured, chipped or loose
  • Lower layers of enamel are visible from worn teeth
  • Tired or tight jaw muscles, or a locked jaw that won’t open or close completely
  • Increased tooth sensitivity or pain in the jaw, neck, face or ear

Left untreated, severe bruxism can lead to permanent damage to your teeth or dental restorations or jaw pain.

Diagnosing bruxism

To confirm that you are suffering from bruxism, your dentist will likely evaluate the condition of your teeth and jaw muscles over time for progressive damage. If you are diagnosed with severe bruxism, several treatment options are available.

Three treatment approaches

Bruxism treatment options can be divided into three categories: behavioral, dental and medicinal.

  • Behavioral: Grinding or clenching caused by stress or anxiety can often be alleviated through relaxation techniques or behavioral training. Severe anxiety may require sessions with a therapist.
  • Dental: Mouth guards can be designed and manufactured to keep your teeth separated and avoid further damage. If too much damage has been incurred, your dentist may need to repair your teeth with crowns or other restorations.
  • Medications: Taking a pharmaceutical approach to bruxism is usually a last resort. Some patients respond well to the use of muscle relaxants or anti-depressants.

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