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Do you ever wake up in the morning with a headache or with the feeling that your jaw is tight?  You are probably one of the many people suffering from bruxism.


Bruxism is a parafunctional activity characterized by excessive clenching and grinding of the jaw.  Bruxism is a common problem, affecting up to 31% of the general population!1 There are two main types of bruxism, one that occurs during sleep (sleep bruxism) and one that occurs when you are awake (awake bruxism).  While damage is done in both types, sleep bruxism can lead to more extensive damage and is associated with other medical concerns such as sleep apnea.


  • Worn down teeth
  • Popping or clicking of the temporomandibular joint
  • Headaches
  • Tooth mobility
  • Earaches
  • Sore teeth, gums and muscles of the face
  • Hypersentivity of teeth
  • Restricted mouth opening (trismus)
  • Tooth indentations on the edge of tongue


The cause of bruxism is largely unknown, but it is generally accepted to have multiple possible causes2,3

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Anger
  • Medications, especially those for treating depression and amphetamines
  • Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease
  • Malocclusion
  • Sleep apnea


The Internation Classification for Sleep Disorders listed diagnostic criteria for sleep bruxism.4 The minimal criteria include both of the following:

A. symptom of tooth-grinding or tooth-clenching during sleep, and

B. One or more of the following:

  1. Abnormal tooth wear
  2. Grinding sounds
  3. Discomfort of the jaw muscles


People who grind their teeth may be unaware of the habit either because it occurs while sleeping or it is a habit during the day. Bruxism can have far-reaching effects on oral health, including tooth wear and the development of TMJ disorder.  Because of this, early diagnosis is key and can help prevent breakdown of your teeth.


If you are aware that you are an awake bruxer, try to break any habit that may cause you to clench your teeth during the day.  For instance if you clench your teeth when concentrating intently, try to loosen up or stick your tongue to the back of your teeth instead.

For a night bruxer, a custom nightguard can be fabricated to help protect your teeth.  This custom guard sits on one arch of your teeth and is only a few millimeters thick.  Call your dentist today and ask about bruxism and how to protect your teeth!


1. Manfredini D, Winocur E, Guarda-Nardini L, Paesani D, Lobbezoo F (2013). “Epidemiology of bruxism in adults: a systematic review of the literature”. Journal of Orofacial Pain 27 (2): 99–110.

2. Cawson RA, Odell EW, Porter S. (2002). Cawsonś essentials of oral pathology and oral medicine. (7th ed.). Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone. pp. 6,566,364,366.

3. Shetty S, Pitti V, Satish Babu CL, Surendra Kumar GP, Deepthi BC (September 2010). “Bruxism: a literature review”Journal of Indian Prosthodontic Society 10 (3): 141–8.

 4. “International classification of sleep disorders, revised: Diagnostic and coding manual.” Chicago, Illinois: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 2001. Retrieved16 May2013.

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