Teeth Grinding: Common Causes and Treatment Options

From time to time, most people clench and grind their teeth. Also known as bruxism, occasional grinding of the teeth will not really cause much harm. However, when grinding occurs on a consistent basis, the teeth can get damaged and oral health issues can arise.


While teeth grinding is often attributed to anxiety and stress, it often occurs during sleep. Other possible causes of grinding teeth in sleep (and while awake) include missing or crooked teeth and an abnormal bite. The condition can also be caused by some type of sleep disorder like sleep apnea.

Since most people grind their teeth during sleep, many are not aware they have the condition. In most cases however, people suspect they have the condition when they experience some of bruxism’s telltale symptoms like sore jaw and dull and constant headaches.

Others who have bruxism and who grind their teeth during sleep are also often informed by their bed partners about the grinding. For proper diagnosis, your dentist will examine the jaw and mouth to look for prevalent signs of the condition.


Some of the most prevalent signs and symptoms of bruxism include:

● Teeth clenching or grinding (sometimes loud enough to wake the patient’s bed partner)

● Chipped, loose, flattened, or fractured teeth

● Worn tooth enamel (in severe cases, deeper layers of the tooth are exposed)

● Increased tooth sensitivity or pain

● Tight or tired jaw muscles

● Locked jaw (sometimes won’t close or open completely)

● Soreness or pain in the face, neck, or jaw

● Dull headache (often starts in the temples)

● Pain that resembles an earache (occurs if you don’t have any problems with your ear)

● Sleep disruption

Treatment Options

In many cases, treatment of the condition is not necessary. Children with bruxism often outgrow the condition even without treatment. The condition is also not that severe in some adults that therapy is not really necessary.

In severe cases however, some of the treatment options can include therapies, medications, and certain dental approaches. The treatment options available are often designed to relieve pain and discomfort and prevent further damage.

Dental approaches

● Mouth guards and splints – these devices are designed to separate the teeth so further damage is avoided. They can be made of soft materials or hard acrylic and is fitted over the lower or upper teeth.

● Dental correction – in severe cases, when tooth wear has already progressed to sensibility and inability to chew properly, reshaping the tooth surfaces or using crowns may be recommended.

Other approaches

● Behavior change – practicing proper jaw and mouth position might be recommended for those with bruxism. Your dentist will be able to provide the best position for the jaw and mouth.

● Anxiety and stress management – if the grinding is due to stress, learning strategies that promote relaxation (like meditation) can help. If the condition is due to or related to anxiety, advice from a licensed counsellor or therapist may help.

● Biofeedback – for those who have a hard time changing their habits, biofeedback might be recommended. Basically, it is a method that uses monitoring equipment and procedures to teach patients to control muscle activity in the jaw.

Dr. Gerald Tan



Snoring - Has anyone ever mentioned you snore loudly?

Tired - Do you often feel tired, fatigued or sleepy during the daytime?
Observation - Has anyone ever observed you stop breathing during your sleep?
Blood Pressure - Have you got high blood pressure?
BMI - Are you overweight?
Age - Are you over 50 years old?
Neck - Is your neck circumference greater than 40cm?
Gender - Are you male?


Do you feel refreshed when you wake after 7 hours sleep?

Has anyone in your family ever been diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Have you been diagnosed or are you being treated for depression?
Have you been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes?
Do you wake often during the night to go to the bathroom?
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For each situation listed below, circle a number from 0 to 3 that best reflects how likely you are to fall asleep. Be as realistic as you can.

0 – No chance of falling asleep 1 – Slight chance of falling asleep     2 –Good Chance of falling asleep 3 – High chance of falling asleep

Sitting and reading
Watching TV
As a passenger in a car for an hour
Lying down in the afternoon
Sitting and talking to someone
Sitting quietly after lunch without alcohol
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