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ABCs of Sleep—B is for Bruxism

A sleep disorder characterized by clenching the jaw or grinding the teeth during sleep. Bruxism is common in adolescents and, in many cases, tends to decrease with age.*

Dentists are usually the first to discover that a patient has bruxism, though a patient’s bed partner may also complain about the noise that comes from teeth grinding while asleep.

Bruxism could be caused by:

  • an extreme manifestation of otherwise normal behavioral activity taking place during sleep
  • a coping or personality style reflective of task-oriented subjects that leads to jaw grinding during sleep
  • imbalances in neurotransmitter activities which exacerbate teeth grinding and jaw muscle contraction during sleep
  • genetics or familial predisposition to bruxism
  • an association with sleep breathing disorders like sleep apnea
  • an association with a preexisting neurological movement disorder like Parkinson’s or Tourette’s
  • drug factors (abuse of chemical substances or as side effects of prescribed medications)
  • certain clinically diagnosed mental health problems like dementia 

Side effects of bruxism:

  • headaches in the morning
  • facial pain
  • sinus pain
  • earache
  • ringing ears
  • muscle soreness in the jaw
  • stiff neck and shoulder muscles
  • tooth loosening
  • fractured teeth and damaged fillings
  • enamel loss
  • receding or inflamed gums
  • tongue scalloping
  • poor sleep quality

Treatments include:

  • behavioral therapies
  • oral/dental appliances
  • relaxation therapies
  • medications (though there are side effects to consider)

Links to learn more:

Bruxism and Sleep || Principles & Practices of Sleep Medicine
Teeth Clenching and Grinding
Grinding Teeth? Perhaps it’s your meds


Spriggs, WH. (2010.) Glossary. In Essentials of Polysomnography (pp585-606). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers


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