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Bruxism: Common Causes & Treatments for Teeth Grinding & Clenching

Updated: Mar 15

Do you always wake up with a sore jaw? Have you noticed that your teeth have become more sensitive? These symptoms could be caused by a condition known as bruxism, or teeth grinding. Bruxism affects millions of people worldwide, and if left untreated, it can lead to serious dental problems. In this article, we will explore the pain, expertise, and promise of bruxism, including what it is, why it happens, and how to stop it.

adolescent getting a dental check-up
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Burden of Bruxism

The incidence of bruxism varies widely, with estimates ranging from 8% to 31% in adults and up to 15% in children [1]. The prevalence is higher in certain populations, such as those with certain medical or dental conditions, and may be higher in women than in men. Bruxism can have a negative impact on quality of life, causing dental damage, headaches, and other symptoms that can interfere with daily activities.

young child grinding their teeth while asleep
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It's also frequently comorbid with other conditions, such as sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression, which can further impact quality of life. However, with proper treatment and management, many individuals with bruxism are able to reduce symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.

Causes of Bruxism

Bruxism is a complex condition that has various underlying causes. One of the most common causes is stress and anxiety. When you are feeling stressed, your body can respond by clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth. Bruxism can also be a side effect of some medications, such as antidepressants. Additionally, certain lifestyle factors, such as alcohol and caffeine consumption, can increase your risk of bruxism.

The pain of bruxism can be felt in various ways. One of the most common symptoms is waking up with a sore jaw or headache. This happens because bruxism involves clenching and grinding your teeth, which can put significant pressure on your jaw muscles. Over time, this pressure can cause your muscles to become fatigued and sore. Additionally, teeth grinding can wear down your enamel, making your teeth more sensitive and prone to cavities. If left untreated, bruxism can even lead to tooth loss.

To diagnose bruxism, your dentist will examine your teeth for signs of wear and tear. They may also ask you about any symptoms you have been experiencing, such as jaw pain or headaches. In some cases, your dentist may recommend a sleep study to monitor your bruxism while you sleep.

young woman fitted with custom dental impression to protect her teeth
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Pathophysiology of Bruxism

One of the primary factors behind bruxism is hyperactivity of the muscles involved in chewing. Normally, these muscles are only active when chewing or talking, but in cases of bruxism, they can become overactive and engage in teeth grinding and clenching even when not needed. This can put significant pressure on the teeth and jaw muscles, leading to pain and discomfort.

Another factor that can contribute to bruxism is a misaligned bite. If the upper and lower teeth do not meet properly when biting down, this can cause the jaw muscles to work harder than necessary, leading to teeth grinding and clenching.

If left untreated, bruxism can lead to various complications and long-term effects. One of the most common issues is tooth damage, as the grinding and clenching can wear down the enamel and expose the dentin underneath. This can make the teeth more sensitive and prone to decay and cavities.

headache pain while awake from clenching teeth together
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Additionally, bruxism can lead to jaw pain, headaches, and earaches, as well as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. TMJ disorders can cause significant pain and discomfort in the jaw, face, and neck, and may require more advanced treatments, such as physical therapy or surgery.

In severe cases, bruxism can even lead to tooth loss. This is because the constant pressure and grinding can weaken the teeth and their supporting structures, leading to damage and eventual loss.

Overall, if you are experiencing symptoms of bruxism, it is important to seek out professional help and explore the various treatment options available. By addressing bruxism early on, you can prevent further complications and improve your oral health and quality of life.

What Does Science Say about Bruxism?

Several scientific studies have explored the causes and potential treatments for bruxism. One study published in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation found that bruxism was more common in individuals with a higher level of anxiety and stress [2]. The study also suggested that relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation, may be helpful in reducing bruxism symptoms.

Another study published in the Journal of Dental Research examined the relationship between bruxism and tooth wear [3]. The study found that individuals with severe bruxism had significantly more tooth wear than those without the condition. The researchers suggested that early diagnosis and treatment of bruxism could help prevent tooth wear and other complications.

prescription medication for managing and treating bruxism
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A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine explored the use of botulinum toxin (Botox) injections as a potential treatment for bruxism. The study found that Botox injections into the jaw muscles reduced bruxism-related symptoms and improved quality of life in some individuals [4].

In a review published in the Journal of Sleep Research, researchers examined the potential role of sleep disorders in bruxism. The review suggested that sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea, may contribute to the development of bruxism, and that treatment of sleep disorders may also improve bruxism symptoms [5].

Overall, these studies and others have provided valuable insights into the causes and potential treatments for bruxism. However, more research is needed to fully understand the condition and develop effective interventions for those who suffer from it.


Factors Influencing Bruxism

​Factors that Increase the Risk of Bruxism

Factors that Decrease the Risk of Bruxism

High stress levels

Low stress levels

Anxiety and depression

Good mental health

​Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea

Healthy sleep patterns

Certain medications, such as antidepressants or antipsychotics

Avoidance or reduction of medication use

Substance use, such as caffeine or tobacco

​Avoidance or reduction of substance (drug) use

Malocclusion or misaligned teeth

Orthodontic treatment or dental adjustments

Family history of bruxism


Certain medical conditions, such as Parkinson's disease


It is important to note that not all of these factors may apply to every individual with bruxism, and that the presence or absence of these factors does not necessarily guarantee the presence or absence of bruxism. It is recommended to consult with a dentist or healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

Prognosis of Bruxism

Bruxism is a chronic condition that can have varying degrees of severity and different stages depending on the progression of the condition. The prognosis of bruxism can vary depending on the stage of the condition.

In the early stages of bruxism, the prognosis is generally good, as it can often be managed with lifestyle changes and treatment such as the use of a night guard or stress management techniques. With proper management, individuals can reduce their symptoms and prevent dental damage.

Child with tooth damage from grinding at nighttime
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In the advanced stages of bruxism, where there has been significant dental damage or other complications, the prognosis may be less favorable. In these cases, more aggressive treatment such as orthodontics or dental surgery may be necessary. However, even in these advanced cases, with proper treatment and management, individuals can still experience improvement in their symptoms and quality of life.

It's important to note that bruxism is a chronic condition, and while it can be managed, it may not be completely curable. However, with ongoing care and management, individuals can still lead healthy and productive lives.

How Can Different Professionals Help?

Bruxism requires the attention of a multi-disciplinary team just like many diseases do. A dentist and a physician are not the only professionals who will be able to help you with managing your condition.

dentist, physician, doctor, therapist and clinician working together as team to treat bruxism
courtesy of thedo_osteopathic

Here is how a team of healthcare experts can improve your quality of life with bruxism:

Healthcare Professional

How They Can Help


Diagnose and treat bruxism, create custom nightguards to protect teeth from grinding, make dental adjustments to improve bite alignment, recommend orthodontic treatment, and provide oral care education and tips


Evaluate and diagnose underlying medical conditions that may contribute to bruxism, such as sleep apnea, and recommend appropriate treatment or refer to a specialist if necessary

Psychologist or therapist

Sleep specialist

Evaluate and diagnose sleep disorders that may contribute to bruxism, such as sleep apnea, and recommend appropriate treatment, such as a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine

Physical therapist

Provide exercises and techniques to alleviate jaw pain and stiffness associated with bruxism

Naturopathic doctor or holistic practitioner

Offer alternative and complementary treatments, such as acupuncture or herbal remedies, to alleviate symptoms of bruxism

Nutritionist or dietitian

Provide dietary recommendations to improve overall health and reduce stress, which may help alleviate symptoms of bruxism

Talking with Your Dentist

Your dentist is likely to be the first one who diagnoses you with bruxism and provides you with the necessary treatment plan. After being diagnosed with bruxism, it's essential to have an open and honest conversation with your dentist about your condition. You should inform your dentist about your symptoms and any concerns you may have.

Patient being checked for clenching, tooth damage and teeth wear
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Additionally, you should ask your dentist for a detailed treatment plan and any lifestyle changes that can help reduce your symptoms. You may also want to discuss the cost and timeline of treatment, as well as any potential side effects. It's essential to maintain regular communication with your dentist throughout the treatment process to ensure that your condition is managed effectively.

Getting Started with Treatments

When it comes to treating bruxism, there are several tips and things you should avoid doing to improve your chances of success. First and foremost, it is important to avoid certain habits that can worsen bruxism, such as chewing gum or biting your nails. Additionally, try to reduce your alcohol and caffeine consumption, as these substances can exacerbate teeth grinding.

In terms of the nightguard treatment, it is crucial to wear the device consistently and follow the care instructions provided by your dentist. This can include regularly cleaning the nightguard and storing it properly when not in use. Additionally, if you experience any discomfort or issues with your nightguard, be sure to contact your dentist for assistance.

bruxism mouthguard impression, over-the-counter nightguard or boil-and-bite otc appliance
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In terms of stress management, there are various techniques you can try to reduce your stress levels and prevent teeth grinding. One effective method is to practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. You may also find it helpful to engage in regular exercise or seek out therapy to address any underlying anxiety or stress.

The advantages of treating bruxism are numerous. By reducing teeth grinding, you can alleviate pain and discomfort in your jaw and head. You can also prevent further dental problems, such as enamel wear or tooth loss. Additionally, by treating bruxism, you can improve the quality of your sleep, which can have a positive impact on your overall health and well-being.

Overall, if you are struggling with bruxism, it is important to seek out professional help and explore the various treatment options available. With the right care and management, you can effectively treat bruxism and improve your oral health and quality of life.

Evidence-Based Treatment of Bruxism

The treatment of bruxism in children and adults typically involves a combination of behavioral and therapeutic interventions, with the goal of reducing teeth grinding and clenching and preventing further damage to the teeth and jaw muscles. Below are some evidence-based guidelines for the treatment of bruxism:

  1. Nightguards: Custom-made nightguards can be highly effective in reducing teeth grinding and protecting the teeth from further damage. Several studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of nightguards in reducing bruxism-related symptoms, including tooth wear, pain, and discomfort.

  2. Stress management: Stress and anxiety are often contributing factors to bruxism, and stress management techniques such as relaxation exercises, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and medication can be effective in reducing bruxism symptoms. One study found that cognitive-behavioral therapy was effective in reducing bruxism in adults.

  3. Dental adjustments: In cases where bruxism is caused by an underlying dental issue, such as a misaligned bite, dental adjustments such as orthodontic treatment or dental restorations may be necessary to alleviate symptoms. However, these interventions are typically only recommended in cases where other treatments have not been effective.

  4. Biofeedback: Biofeedback techniques involve monitoring and controlling physical responses, such as muscle tension, through electronic devices. Several studies have shown that biofeedback can be effective in reducing bruxism symptoms, particularly in children [6].

  5. Medications: There is limited evidence to support the use of medications such as muscle relaxants or antidepressants for the treatment of bruxism. However, in some cases, these medications may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms, particularly in cases where stress or anxiety is a contributing factor.

It is important to note that the best treatment approach for bruxism will depend on the individual case and underlying causes of the condition. It is recommended to consult with a dentist or healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.


Other Treatments

In addition to psychological and dental help, there are several other treatments that a person with bruxism may consider:

1. Botulinum toxin injections

Injections of botulinum toxin, commonly known as Botox, may be used to temporarily paralyze the muscles responsible for grinding.

2. Hypnosis

Some individuals with bruxism may find relief through hypnosis, which can help reduce stress and provide relaxation.

3. Acupuncture

It is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that includes inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to promote relaxation and relieve tension.

Advice for Patients with Bruxism

young adult female experiencing mouth and jaw pain from clenching and grinding
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● Wear a custom-fitted nightguard to protect your teeth while sleeping

● Practice good sleep habits, such as sticking to a consistent sleep schedule and creating a relaxing bedtime routine

● Reduce stress through relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga

● Avoid or reduce consumption of stimulants like caffeine or nicotine

● Maintain good oral hygiene habits by brushing and flossing regularly and seeing your dentist for routine check-ups

● Seek treatment for any underlying medical or dental conditions that may contribute to bruxism


● Do not chew gum or chew on anything that is not food, such as toothpicks, pens or pencils, as this can exacerbate the problem

● Do not drink alcohol excessively, as it can increase muscle tension and exacerbate grinding

● Avoid eating hard or tough foods that can put extra stress on your teeth and jaw muscles

● Do not clench or grind your teeth intentionally, as this can worsen the condition. Do not ignore the symptoms of bruxism, as untreated bruxism can lead to dental damage, headaches, and other complications.

How to Support Someone with Bruxism?

If you know someone who is struggling with bruxism, there are a few things you can do to offer support and help them manage their condition.

1. Educate yourself about Bruxism:

One of the best things you can do to support someone with bruxism is to educate yourself about the condition. Learn about the causes, symptoms, and available treatments so you can better understand what your loved one is going through and how you can support them.

2. Encourage them to seek professional help:

Bruxism can be managed with the help of healthcare professionals such as dentists, physicians, or mental health professionals. Encourage your loved one to seek help from a qualified professional who can provide an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

3. Be patient and understanding:

Bruxism can be frustrating and stressful for those who experience it. Be patient and understanding with your loved one and offer support and encouragement as they navigate their condition.

4. Help them manage stress:

Stress is a common trigger for bruxism, so helping your loved one manage stress can be beneficial. Encourage relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. Engage in stress-reducing activities together such as going for a walk or listening to calming music.

practicing good habits to manage stress and relaxation for better mental and physical health
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5. Offer a listening ear:

Sometimes, just having someone to talk to can make a big difference. Offer your loved one a listening ear and let them know you are there to support them.

6. Offer practical help:

Bruxism can make daily activities such as eating, speaking, or sleeping challenging. Offer practical help such as preparing soft foods, helping them find a comfortable sleep position, or offering a supportive ear during difficult conversations.

7. Be supportive of treatment:

Bruxism can be managed with a variety of treatments, including nightguards, medications, or behavioral therapy. Encourage your loved one to stick with their treatment plan and offer support and encouragement along the way.

8. Be mindful of your own behavior:

Teeth grinding can be a frustrating and challenging condition for both the individual experiencing it and their loved ones. Be mindful of your own behavior and avoid making negative comments or adding additional stress to the situation.

9. Avoid triggers:

Certain foods or drinks, such as caffeine or alcohol, can exacerbate bruxism symptoms. Help your loved one identify their triggers and avoid them as much as possible.

10. Help them maintain good oral hygiene:

Bruxism can cause dental damage such as chips, cracks, or wear on teeth. Help your loved one maintain good oral hygiene by encouraging regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups.

female child brushing her teeth for good oral hygiene care
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In conclusion, supporting someone with bruxism can involve a range of actions, from encouraging them to seek professional help to offering practical assistance in daily activities. Being patient, understanding, and empathetic can go a long way in helping your loved one manage their condition and improve their quality of life.


Bruxism is a common condition that can cause significant pain and dental problems if left untreated. However, with the right expertise and promise of treatments, you can stop bruxism in its tracks. If you think you may be grinding your teeth, make an appointment with your dentist today. They can help diagnose your condition and create a treatment plan that works for you. Remember, prevention is key, so be sure to practice stress management and avoid lifestyle factors that can increase your risk of bruxism.



[1] Caroline Ceneviz, D. M. D., Noshir Mehta, D. M. D., & Steven Scrivani, D. D. S. (2011). Incidence of bruxism in TMD population. New York State Dental Journal, 77(5), 54.

[2] LOBBEZOO, F., Van Der Zaag, J., Van Selms, M. K. A., Hamburger, H. L., & Naeije, M. (2008). Principles for the management of bruxism. Journal of oral rehabilitation, 35(7), 509-523.

[3] Kapagiannidou, D., Koutris, M., Wetselaar, P., Visscher, C. M., van der Zaag, J., & Lobbezoo, F. (2021). Association between polysomnographic parameters of sleep bruxism and attrition‐type tooth wear. Journal of Oral Rehabilitation, 48(6), 687-691.

[4] Shim, Y. J., Lee, M. K., Kato, T., Park, H. U., Heo, K., & Kim, S. T. (2014). Effects of botulinum toxin on jaw motor events during sleep in sleep bruxism patients: a polysomnographic evaluation. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 10(3), 291-298.

[5] Lavigne, G., Kato, T., Herrero Babiloni, A., Huynh, N., Dal Fabbro, C., Svensson, P., ... & Lobbezoo, F. (2021). Research routes on improved sleep bruxism metrics: Toward a standardised approach. Journal of Sleep Research, 30(5), e13320.

[6] Wang, L. F., Long, H., Deng, M., Xu, H., Fang, J., Fan, Y., ... & Han, X. L. (2014). Biofeedback treatment for sleep bruxism: a systematic review. Sleep and Breathing, 18, 235-242.


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