Teeth grinding (Bruxism)

About teeth grinding

Bruxism, more commonly known as teeth grinding, is when you rub or clench your teeth together. If you grind your teeth, you’re not alone. The Bruxism Association suggests that teeth grinding effects around 8-10% of the population1.

Although lots of people grind or clench their teeth occasionally, when it becomes frequent or a long-term habit, it can seriously impact the health and appearance of your teeth and jaw.

Bruxism is most common in 25 to 44 year olds2, though it can affect people of all ages, including children. You might not realise if you grind your teeth, because it often happens during the night, or when you’re stressed.

Symptoms of teeth grinding

Bruxism affects everyone differently, so it might not cause you any problems. If you do have symptoms, these may include:

It’s not just dental symptoms that can have an impact on your overall health; if you suffer from sleep-related bruxism, this may disturb your sleep and can even wake you completely.

Many people don’t realise that their sleep has been affected; it’s more likely that their partners or family members notice the problem or are kept awake. If you recognise any or all of the symptoms above, it’s important to make an appointment with a dentist.

Causes of teeth grinding

Bruxism can be caused by a range of factors, including

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Missing teeth, or teeth that aren’t in the right position
  • Medications, such as a certain group of antidepressants
  • Talking in your sleep, or sleep disorders like sleep apnoea or sleep paralysis
  • Medical conditions including Parkinson’s, dementia and epilepsy
  • Smoking, alcohol or recreational drugs
  • Drinking lots of tea or coffee. According to the NHS3, this would be around six or more cups a day
  • Genetics - Bruxism can run in the family

If you’re concerned about teeth grinding but aren’t sure if you’re doing it at night, you could ask a partner or friend to listen or watch out for it.

Risks of teeth grinding

There are several risks when you grind your teeth. In the short term, this might just be mild discomfort, but in the long term, it could cause serious damage to the way your teeth look and function.

Short-term symptoms

  • Inflamed and receding gums
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Earaches, headaches and toothaches
  • Stiff muscles in your face, neck and shoulders
  • Sleep deprivation

Long-term symptoms

  • Extreme grinding down of your tooth enamel or whole teeth
  • Broken or cracked teeth
  • An altered bite, which can affect the way you eat
  • Changes to the shape of your face due to severely worn-down teeth
  • TMJ dysfunction

How to stop teeth grinding

Although there’s no cure for clenching or grinding your teeth, there are things that can help. The first thing to do is see your dentist, who will check your teeth and jaw for any key signs of bruxism. They might recommend:


Your dentist might recommend you try a mouth guard to prevent sleep-related teeth grinding. Mouthguards are worn at night and create a barrier between your teeth to stop you from clenching them together. This helps prevent any further damage and reduce pain.

Although mouthguards are available in most pharmacies or online, we’d always recommend wearing a custom-made one from your dentist. As they’re made to fit your mouth specifically, they generally work a lot better than an over-the-counter solution.

Managing stress and anxiety

If you or your dentist think your teeth grinding might be stress-related, or caused by a medicine you’re taking, you should get in touch with your GP. They can give you further advice or recommend other treatments to control your stress.

Trying to relax and get a good night’s sleep before bed can also help reduce teeth grinding in some cases. Techniques such as reading, having a bath or practising yoga before bed can help you wind down, making for a better night’s sleep.

If you smoke, drink alcohol or use recreational drugs, try to stop. These habits often make teeth grinding worse.

Treating the effects of teeth grinding

If you suffer from bruxism severely, there may be damage to your teeth as a result. Your dentist can suggest which options are best for you depending on the extent of the problem. Some treatment options might include:

Worried about teeth grinding?

If you’re concerned about teeth grinding, it’s important you see a dentist. They can give you advice and check your mouth for any potential damage. Search for your local Bupa Dental Care practice below and get in touch, one of our friendly dentists will be happy to help.

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