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Teeth Grinding (Bruxism): Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

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What is Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)?

Do you ever wake up with an achy jaw or a headache, or notice popping or clicking in your jaw when you open and close your mouth? If so, you may be grinding your teeth at night. Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, need not become a serious dental problem, but in severe cases it can cause misalignment of teeth, which can promote gum disease.

Teeth Grinding Symptoms

It’s important to tell your dental professional if you think you have been grinding your teeth so he or she can pay special attention to signs of damage to the tooth enamel. Many people have bruxism that is mild and doesn’t need a specific treatment, but if the clenching or grinding is severe, a dental professional can fit you with a mouthguard to wear at night to protect your teeth and help prevent further damage.

Causes of Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding most often occurs at night. Although it is often linked to stress, bruxism can be caused by sleep disorders or by mechanical problems with the teeth, such as missing or broken teeth or a misaligned bite. In some cases, teeth grinding isn’t due to stress or poor tooth alignment. Bruxism can also be a side effect of neurological disorders such as Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Certain types of psychiatric medications, including antidepressants, also can trigger bruxism.

Teeth Grinding Treatments

If your bruxism is due to physical problems such as misaligned or broken teeth, your dental professional may have some suggestions for how to correct these problems with crowns or braces, or other bruxism treatments that may help resolve the grinding. If your bruxism is caused by stress, it’s important to try to identify the stressors and try to find ways to relax, including jaw-specific physical therapy, meditation and exercise. For some tooth grinders, muscle relaxants help control the problem.