Quick Reference

Reviewed by: Dr. Kristen Dority

Involuntary gnashing, grinding, or clenching of the teeth, especially the molars, is termed bruxism.

Detailed Information

Bruxism is considerably more destructive than cavities because tooth enamel is worn down, the underlying dentin is exposed and it can cause fracture. Bruxism is usually an unconscious activity whether the individual is awake or asleep. It is often associated with fatigue, anxiety, emotional stress, or fear. Bruxism also occurs in patients that have histories of aggression or compulsive behavior.

Bruxism causes pressure on the muscles, tissues and other structures around the jaw and can lead to jaw joint disorders, jaw pain and soreness, headaches, earaches, damaged teeth and other problems. These symptoms are often collectively referred to as temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD).

Symptoms of bruxism include worn, cracked, chipped teeth; popping, clicking, and pain in the temporomandibular joint. Frequent headaches and/or migraines are also a common result of bruxism.

Although there is no cure for bruxism, the condition can be managed with a nightguard appliance that protects the teeth. Good self care in the areas of daily exercise, relaxation techniques including yoga and meditation, and avoiding stimulants including caffeine are all measures that help alleviate the problem and its associated discomfort.

Last updated: 12-May-05