Merck Manual

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Bruxism

By

Bernard J. Hennessy

, DDS, Texas A&M University, College of Dentistry

Last full review/revision Feb 2022| Content last modified Feb 2022
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Bruxism is clenching or grinding of teeth.

Bruxism can occur during sleep (sleep bruxism) and while awake (awake bruxism). In some people, bruxism causes headaches, neck pain, and/or jaw pain. The most severe and extensive grinding and clenching occurs during sleep. People may be oblivious to their bruxism, but family members might notice. Bruxism can abrade and eventually wear down enamel and dentin in the crowns of teeth, damage metal or ceramic dental crowns, and cause teeth to become mobile.

Treatment requires that the patient consciously try to reduce bruxism while awake. Plastic oral appliances (night guards) that prevent occlusal contact by fitting between the teeth can be used while sleeping. When symptoms are severe, a guard can also be used during the day. Usually, such devices are custom-made and fitted by dentists. However, if the only problem is tooth wear, over-the-counter (OTC) heat-moldable devices fitted at home are available, but a dental evaluation should first be done to assess the severity of wear and determine whether an OTC device is adequate. Mild anxiolytics, particularly benzodiazepines, may help until a night guard is available but should not be used for extended periods.

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NOTE: This is the Professional Version. CONSUMERS: Click here for the Consumer Version
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