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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Teeth grinding

Teeth grinding (also called bruxism) is a habit where you grind and clench your teeth. It can happen when you are awake or asleep.

Your teeth are not meant to be clenched and in contact all the time. Your bottom and top teeth should only briefly touch each other when you swallow or chew. If they are in contact too often or too forcefully, it can wear down your tooth enamel. This is the outer layer that covers each tooth. Without the enamel to protect the inner parts of your teeth, you may develop dental problems.

Teeth grinding is common in tamariki (children) and rangatahi (teens and young adults). But it can occur in people of any age. Most tamariki grow out of teeth grinding.

Symptoms of teeth grinding

You may not know that you grind your teeth while you are asleep. A bed partner may be the first person to notice grinding sounds and noises. But not everyone who grinds their teeth makes a noise. Other symptoms may include:

Causes of teeth grinding

It is not always clear what causes teeth grinding but it is often linked to:

Self-care for teeth grinding

Self-care for teeth grinding includes reducing stress and good sleep habits. It also includes special exercises to relax the muscles involved in teeth grinding. Pain relief medicines and ice and heat are also options.

See Self-care for teeth grinding for more details.

Getting help with teeth grinding and clenching

If your symptoms do not get better with self-care or you have concerns about your teeth or jaw, see your general practice team or dentist.

If your teeth grinding is causing tooth pain or sensitive teeth, your dentist may suggest a mouthguard. This may also be called a night guard or dental splint. It is like a sports mouthguard but harder. You wear the mouthguard to protect your teeth from damage. You can buy mouthguards online or at a sports store. A dentist can also custom make one to fit precisely over your upper or lower teeth.

With some people, their teeth grinding is severe, and they are unable to chew properly. If this happens to you, your dentist may need to reshape the chewing surfaces of your teeth. Or they may need to use crowns to repair the damage.

Getting treatment for an underlying condition such as sleep apnoea or anxiety may help.

If your symptoms are severe and not improving with other measures, your health care provider may suggest a trial of medication or Botox injections. But these treatments do not work for everyone and can have unwanted side effects.

On the next page: Self-care for teeth grinding

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created May 2024.


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Page reference: 1350847

Review key: HICPA-75368