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Teeth grinding

2-minute read

It is fairly common for people to grind their teeth together unconsciously, usually during their sleep. This habit is known as bruxism.

Why do some people grind their teeth?

There are many possible reasons for tooth grinding. These include:

  • psychological issues such as anxiety or stress
  • physical issues such as missing or crooked teeth
  • illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy
  • taking particular medicines such as antidepressants
  • concentrating hard
  • not having enough water in the body
  • not eating the right foods
  • using recreational drugs such as cocaine
  • when babies' teeth come through

People who grind their teeth while asleep are more likely to have other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnoea.

Does teeth grinding cause any problems?

If you grind your teeth, you can get:

  • painful jaw muscles, especially in the morning
  • cracked, chipped or loose teeth
  • neck or ear pain
  • dull headaches
  • sensitivity to hot or cold foods or drinks.

It can also make it hard for those around you to sleep – it can sound like stones grinding together.

Some people, however, grind their teeth at night and find it causes them no problems.

Diagnosis of teeth grinding

Your dentist will check for signs of bruxism, such as tooth damage, during regular dental check-ups. If they suspect teeth grinding, they will do an examination and ask questions about your symptoms, sleep habits, general health and medications.

Sometimes people see their doctor for headaches or a sore neck, and find teeth grinding is the cause. Your doctor can diagnose it simply by looking in your mouth.

Treatment of teeth grinding

Not everybody who grinds their teeth needs treatment. Many children will simply grow out of it.

If you do need treatment, there are different ways to tackle it.

One is to tackle the psychological aspects through:

The other is to look at the physical aspects through:

  • a custom-made mouthguard (known as an occlusal splint) to protect your teeth
  • dental treatment to repair damaged teeth
  • medical treatment for any condition linked to tooth grinding

It is common to use more than one approach. Talk to your dentist or doctor about your options and their benefits and risks.

For more information

Go to the Australian Dental Association and search "teeth grinding". You can find information there that is appropriate for your age.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2020


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