Bruxism is the medical term for clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth. It’s a very common condition, and many people grind their teeth without realizing it, especially if it occurs during the nighttime.

Causes of Bruxism

While there’s no single cause of bruxism that doctors agrees on, daily stress is thought to be one of the primary and most common reasons. Other causes can include:

  • misaligned teeth
  • stress or anxiety
  • sleeping habits
  • inability to relax
  • depression
  • posture
  • diet

Symptoms of Bruxism

Grinding your teeth can wear them down and cause dental problems, while clenching your jaw can put strain on the muscles and tissues around your jaw.

Other that teeth grinding, symptoms of bruxism include:

  • pain in the jaw
  • earache
  • eating disorders
  • headache
  • insomnia

If you or someone close to you notices that you grind your teeth, you should see a dentist, as long-term grinding can lead to more serious dental problems later. Your dentist will perform a physical examination to rule out other causes of bruxism symptoms. Those conditions include ear disorders, problems with the joint in the jaw (temporomandibular joint disorder), or other dental complications.

Treatments for Bruxism

Bruxism is not a serious disorder, but if left untreated—especially if the underlying causes are not addressed— it can lead to larger problems. Your doctor could prescribe medication to alleviate the pain or recommend over-the-counter pain relievers. You can also use heat or ice or massage sore muscles in the area where it hurts. Treatment options to stop bruxism include:

  • mouth guards
  • splints
  • orthodontic adjustment
  • lifestyle changes
  • relaxation techniques