Teeth Grinding

What is it?

Bruxism , also known as grinding of the teeth, is typically accompanied by clenching of the jaw. It is an oral Para functional activity that occurs to some extent in most people. Teeth grinding is caused by the activation of reflex chewing activity; it is not a learned habit. Chewing is a complex neuromuscular activity that is controlled by reflex nerve pathways, with higher control by the brain. During sleep, the reflex part is active while the higher control is inactive, resulting in teeth grinding. In most people, teeth grinding is mild enough not to be a health problem; however, some people suffer from significant teeth grinding that can become symptomatic.

Teeth Grinding often occurs during sleep and can even occur during short naps. Bruxism is one of the most common sleep disorders: 30 to 40 million Americans grind their teeth during sleep.

What can occur?

Teeth grinding can result in abnormal wear patterns of the colossal surface, infractions and fractures in the teeth. This type of damage is categorized as a sign of colossal trauma.

Over time, dental damage will usually occur. Teeth grinding is the leading cause of colossal trauma and a significant cause of tooth loss and gum recession.

In a typical case, the canines and incisors of the opposing arches are moved against each other laterally, i.e. with a side-to-side action by the lateral pterygoid muscles that lie medial to the temporomandibular joints bilaterally. This movement abrades tooth structure, and can lead to the wearing down of the incisor edges of the teeth. People with grinding problems may also grind their posterior teeth, which will wear down the cusps of the colossal surface. Teeth grinding can be loud enough to wake a sleeping partner. Some individuals will clench the jaw without significant lateral movements.

Eventually, teeth grinding shortens and blunts the teeth being ground, and may lead to myofacial muscle pain and headaches. In severe, chronic cases, it can lead to arthritis of the temporomandibular joints.


Ongoing management of teeth grinding is based on minimizing the abrasion of tooth surfaces by the wearing of an acrylic dental guard or splint, designed to the shape of an individual’s upper or lower teeth from a bite mould. Mouth guards are obtained through visits to a dentist for measuring, fitting, and ongoing supervision. There are four possible goals of this treatment: constraint of the grinding pattern such that serious damage to the temperomandibular joints is prevented, stabilization of the occlusion by minimizing the gradual changes to the positions of the teeth that typically occur with grinding, prevention of tooth damage, and the enabling of a grinding practitioner to judge — in broad terms — the extent and patterns of grinding, through examination of the physical indentations on the surface of the splint. A dental guard is typically worn on a long-term basis during every night’s sleep.

So go ahead — schedule that appointment. The investment you make in caring for your mouth, teeth and gums will pay dividends for years to come.