Bruxism is a Grind

We live in a busy society, and, as a result, life can be very stressful at times. That stress can translate into harmful habits, such as clenching your jaw or gritting or grinding your teeth. There are other causes, too. We’re going to get into that in just a moment.

Resting your chin in your hand can be hard on your teeth!

Resting your chin in your hand can be hard on your teeth!

What is bruxism?

Bruxism is a term which includes gritting, grinding or gnashing of teeth. A patient can have bruxism while they’re awake or be asleep. It can cause tooth damage, jaw or neck pain, what is perceived to be an earache, headaches, and TMJ.


Stress can indeed cause bruxism. Anger, tension, frustration, and rage manifest in the jaws of some people. Pain causes bruxism. Some people have a high-energy or competitive personality which causes their bruxism. Others have bruxism from medication or health conditions such as Parkinson’s, epilepsy, apnea, GERD, and others.


Age plays a part. Babies will frequently grind their teeth when their first upper teeth come in because of teething pain or the fascinating sensation and sound they can create by grinding. Mothers have a host of distractions for bruxism in babies. They’ll offer them a cold teething ring, washcloth to chew, a pacifier or pain reliever, or even stick their finger in the child’s mouth. (At that point bruxism may be appropriately renamed ‘biting.’)

Fortunately, bruxism in babies and young children doesn’t usually turn out to be harmful, but parents should keep a close eye on their children’s teeth for signs of wear or damage. Also, parents should teach their children not to rest their chin in their hand.


Genetics also plays a part, particularly in night bruxism. When family members sleep, it only takes a couple of people with bruxism to make their house sound like a pack of hungry squirrels invaded it. So, as you can see, it isn’t the fault of the person with bruxism.

When bruxism mimics ear pain, especially in children, it can be problematic because it can lead to a false diagnosis of ear infections. Antibiotics were prescribed several times for the child who was then diagnosed with TMJ. When third grade ended, the child stopped having ear and jaw pain.  As it turned out, the girl just didn’t enjoy third grade.


Treatments for bruxism include a cold teething ring (babies), a mouth guard, biofeedback, therapy, or even medication can help. Patients with sleep disorders may find their bruxism falls away when their sleep disorder is treated.  A mouthguard can also prevent tooth damage for an adult patient who has bruxism.

If you think you or your child might have bruxism, the best thing to do is to schedule an appointment with your dentist, who may be able to help or refer you to a doctor or therapist who can help.