What you need to know about teeth grinding

Teeth grinding, also called bruxism

Dentist Zena Aseeley from The Parade Dental Practice in Cardiff explains everything you need to know about teeth grinding or bruxism.

"Bruxism is the medical term for grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw. Some people do it in their sleep, some do it while they’re awake, and some do it around the clock. Either way, they may not even realise they’re doing it.

Most people grind or clench their teeth occasionally. But bruxism is when you do it often enough, or hard enough, to cause pain, sensitivity or stiffness. Longer term, it can seriously affect the appearance and health of your teeth or jaw.

With the exception of chewing or swallowing (functional movements) there should be a small space between your top and bottom teeth meeting, for example when you’re in a general resting position. It is understood that most people grind and/or clench their teeth occasionally to a certain degree but when this becomes frequent or long term it can become a symptomatic disorder and cause dental issues.

The Bruxism Association in the UK suggests that teeth grinding effects around 8-10% of the population1 and is most common in 25 to 44-year olds2. However, it can affect both children and adults."

What are the risks of grinding your teeth?

  Short-term symptoms   Long-term risks

Inflamed and receding gums


Extreme grinding down of your tooth enamel or whole teeth


Sensitive teeth


Broken or cracked teeth


Earaches, headaches and toothaches, especially on waking


An altered bite, which can affect the way you eat


Stiff muscles in your face, neck or shoulders


Changes to the shape of your face, due to severely worn-down teeth and/or an altered bite


Sleep deprivation (for you as well as anyone else whose sleep you disturb)


TMJ dysfunction, which is pain in your jaw



Why do people grind their teeth?

Bruxism can be caused by a wide range of factors, including:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Missing teeth, or teeth which aren’t in the right position
  • Medications, such as a certain group of antidepressants
  • Sleep disorders like sleep apnoea or sleep paralysis
  • Medical conditions including Parkinson’s, dementia, reflux and epilepsy
  • Smoking, alcohol or recreational drugs
  • Bruxism which runs in the family

If you’re concerned about teeth grinding or any other dental-related issues, it’s important to speak to a dentist.


Do you think you may be grinding your teeth?

You may not be aware that you grind your teeth or clench your jaw, especially as it may be while you’re asleep. If you’re concerned, you could ask a partner or friend to listen or watch out for it and let you know. Maybe you’ve seen a friend or family member doing it – even children. If you recognise any or all of the symptoms above, it’s important to make an appointment with a dentist.

Can a dentist help with bruxism?

Although there’s no cure for clenching or grinding your teeth, there are things which can help. Your dentist could:

  • Spot the signs and diagnose whether you have bruxism
  • Advise on how to avoid grinding or clenching your teeth; they may recommend a bespoke mouthguard
  • Suggest ways to deal with the effects, such as pain and sensitivity
  • Offer options for treating or repairing any damage to your teeth, gums or jaw

Are there any treatments for bruxism?

First, it’s important to try and help you cut down on the clenching or grinding. Second, there are treatments to deal with the effects of it – for example, correcting any dental abnormalities which may be either a cause or a result of bruxism. Your dentist can suggest which options are best for you.

Reducing your grinding or clenching

  • Managing stress, relaxing your muscles or finding ways to sleep better.

  • Treating any medical conditions which may be causing your bruxism or making it worse.

  • Trying a different medication.

  • Wearing a bespoke mouthguard at night.

  • Stopping or cutting down on alcohol, smoking or recreational drugs.

Dealing with the effects of bruxism

Looking for a dentist to help you with teeth grinding? Our friendly, helpful dentists could help to diagnose and treat your bruxism

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