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Teeth & Mouth

Taking the Bite Out of Bruxism

Do you ever wake up in the morning with a sore mouth or jaw? Have you ever slept over at a friend’s house and been told, “You grind your teeth when you sleep”? If so, you might have bruxism (say: BRUK-siz-um).

What Is Bruxism?

Bruxism is the term for grinding or clenching your teeth. It can happen during the day, but usually happens when you’re asleep. Most of the time you don’t even know you’re doing it! It can happen to kids who still have all their baby teeth or kids whose permanent teeth are starting to grow in.

Dentists don’t know for sure why some people grind their teeth, but they think it may have something to do with a person’s bite — which means the way the top and bottom teeth fit together.

Stress also may be behind bruxism. Have you ever worried about a test at school, something a bully said to you, or moving to a new town? Your body can react to these nervous feelings and fears in different ways, like grinding or clenching your teeth.

Many kids grind their teeth at some time or another. Most of the time, it doesn’t cause any pain or damage to your teeth. But if you share a room, you could drive your brother or sister nuts with the sound! In serious cases, nighttime grinding can wear down tooth enamel (the hard covering on your teeth) and cause jaw problems and pain. But these problems usually happen to grownups.

What Will the Dentist Do?

You’ll probably grow out of the teeth grinding. If it’s making your jaw and face sore or giving you headaches, talk to your dentist, who will examine your teeth to see if the tooth enamel is worn down or chipped. The dentist also might ask questions about your teeth (for instance, asking your parents if they hear you grinding your teeth when you’re asleep).

Usually, kids don’t need to do anything about bruxism. But if it’s causing you pain or other problems, the dentist might give you something called a night guard, which is a piece of plastic, kind of like a mouthguard that a football player wears. A night guard is worn at night and is fitted especially for your teeth and mouth to prevent you from grinding your teeth. Wearing one can now can prevent problems later.

Goodbye to the Grinding!

Because stress could be the cause of bruxism, you might try changing your bedtime routine so you’re relaxed by the time you say goodnight. Take a warm bath or shower, listen to slow music, or read a good book. It just might help you say bye-bye to bruxism!

Reviewed by: Kenneth H. Hirsch, DDS
Date reviewed: October 2012