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, or fillings that are too high
- illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy
- taking particular medicines such as antidepressants
- using recreational drugs such as cocaine
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
- short term medication, such as a muscle relaxant
- biofeedback to improve control of your jaw muscle movements
- 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.
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Last reviewed: May 2018