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Teeth Grinding (Bruxism) 

Teeth grinding, called bruxism, results from repeatedly clenching and releasing the jaw muscles.  Both children and adults can experience bruxism.  It may occur during the day or night.  It is caused by several factors including stress, certain medications, certain illegal drugs, and some medical conditions.  The symptoms of bruxism can be reduced with treatment.  If left untreated, bruxism can lead to a host of dental problems.
Bruxism can occur during the day as an unconscious habit during stressful situations.  More frequently, it happens at night while you sleep.  Bruxism can cause a grinding noise that others may hear. 
Bruxism can occur because of poorly aligned teeth or poor bite patterns.  It can be a symptom stress and anxiety.  It can also be a side effect of certain medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) used to treat depression.  Certain medical conditions such as brain injury or neuromuscular disease can cause bruxism.  Additionally, alcohol and caffeine appear to contribute to bruxism.  Illegal street drugs, such as methamphetamine (“meth”), can cause teeth grinding in addition to widespread tooth decay.

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Teeth grinding during the night is a common symptom of bruxism.  You may notice that you clench your jaw or grind your teeth during the day.  This can make your face and jaw muscles feel tight and painful.  Bruxism can cause a dull headache.  It can also lead to jaw popping and jaw disorders.
Bruxism can damage your teeth and gums.  It can cause cracked and broken teeth.  Bruxism can make your teeth loose.  It can even damage the fillings in your teeth.  Overtime, your teeth may shorten and affect your bite pattern.

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In some cases, your doctor may refer you to a dentist for bruxism diagnosis and treatment.  Your dentist can diagnose bruxism by reviewing your medical history, dental history, and examining your teeth.  You should tell your doctor about your symptoms.  Your dentist will examine your teeth, gums, and bite pattern.  X-rays will be taken to determine the health of your teeth, gums, and bones.

Cracks in teeth may not show up on X-rays.  Your dentist may use other methods to detect tooth cracks.  Your dentist may use special dyes or instruments to help identify cracks.

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Treatments for bruxism depend on the cause and extent of your condition.  Bruxism caused by poorly aligned teeth or poor bite patterns can be treated with orthodontics, tooth adjustments, or crowns.  Bruxism caused by stress may respond to counseling, medication, and relaxation techniques.  Botulinum toxin (BOTOX) injections can temporarily reduce jaw muscle contractions caused by medical conditions.  Alternative medications can be prescribed if you experience bruxism as a side effect from an antidepressant medication. 
Reducing or eliminating alcohol and caffeine consumption may decrease teeth grinding.  If you are using illegal drugs, stop using them.  Your dentist can refer you to resources if you need help.
A dental splint or nighthguard can reduce the affects of teeth grinding at night.  These devices are made of soft plastic or other materials and are worn over your teeth.  Your dentist can customize the fit to your mouth for added comfort and protection.
Report any changes in your teeth or gums to your dentist.  It is important that your dentist treats loose or cracked teeth to prevent the condition from becoming worse.  Bruxism is a preventable and treatable condition.  Keep and attend all of your doctor’s appointments. 

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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit