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When is teeth grinding (bruxism) serious?

Grinding, or bruxism, is a very dangerous habit. Over time, enamel will wear down, and the teeth will appear flat and short. Many patients fracture teeth when they grind their teeth. Patients also have muscle spasms, headache and pain in the temporomandibular joint area (in front of the ear). If you are grinding your teeth, see your dentist as she may feel an occlusal guard is indicated. 
Bruxism can be potentially very serious if it's a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It is now clear that OSA and bruxism are connected and that a person grinding their teeth is struggling to maintain their airway at night while sleeping. Bruxism can be very serious as it potentially indicates the presence of a more severe disease. 
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Tooth grinding sometimes causes problems such as pain and tooth damage, but it does not always require treatment. Watch the animation to learn more about symptoms and treatment of tooth grinding.
Teeth grinding is not dangerous, but leaving it untreated can have serious consequences, such as permanent tooth damage. Bruxism can cause jaw or face pain, headaches, and earaches. More severe cases of teeth grinding can lead to temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder (often referred to as TMJ).
Teeth grinding, or bruxism, it not serious in itself but it can sometimes lead to serious consequences for your mouth.

People who suffer from bruxism may have the following symptoms:
  • headache
  • sore jaw
  • frequent toothaches
  • facial pain
  • worn or cracked teeth or fillings
  • loose teeth
  • earache
  • insomnia
If you suspect you are grinding your teeth, schedule an appointment with your dentist. Your dentist can help you manage bruxism and its related symptoms, as well as repair and help prevent further damage to your teeth.
Bruxism, unconsciously grinding or clenching the teeth during the day or at night while asleep, is a common problem that can affect all ages.

In children, bruxism is usually mild and usually disappears by the teenage years. Bruxism is often triggered by stress, so if your child is grinding his teeth, it may be a good time to talk with your child about any changes in his life that may be causing stress, such as a move, a new school, or a new teacher.

Adults may not be aware that they are grinding or clenching their teeth until a friend or family member notices it. However, persistent teeth grinding can lead to health complications, including:
  • pain in the jaw and facial muscles
  • reoccurring headaches
  • chipped or unevenly worn teeth
  • problems with your jaw joint (also called the TMJ), such as popping or clicking sounds when you open or close your mouth
If you have any of these symptoms and are worried about teeth grinding, call your dentist or doctor. He or she will answer your questions and will suggest treatment options, including techniques to help relieve stress.

Continue Learning about Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

How can bruxism (tooth grinding) affect me?
William M. Litaker Jr., DDSWilliam M. Litaker Jr., DDS
Bruxism is gritting and grinding of the teeth. Most people brux at night and are unaware of this hab...
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What is sleep bruxism?
John Van der Werff, DDSJohn Van der Werff, DDS
Sleep bruxism is the grinding or clenching of teeth during sleep. There are two known causes: sleep ...
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.