Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

Teeth grinding, medically known as bruxism, affects at least 15% of children and teens and about 8% of adults. Teeth grinding is associated with stress or anxiety, but sometimes it happens for no obvious reason.

Some people who grind their teeth, especially at night, don’t even realize they’re doing it. Yet grinding your teeth can lead to dental problems, headache, earache, insomnia, and depression. 

Continue reading to learn more about grinding your teeth, the symptoms of teeth grinding and how to stop.

Woman Grinding Her Teeth As She Sleeps

Piyapong Thongcharoen / Getty Images

Symptoms of Teeth Grinding

When you grind your teeth together, you can exert up to 250 pounds of force on your teeth and jaw. It’s no surprise that can lead to dental problems over time. In addition, grinding can interrupt your sleep, which can lead to insomnia and depression.  

Sometimes, the symptoms of teeth grinding are obvious, like cracked, flattened teeth or jaw pain. Other times they’re more subtle. Here are the common symptoms associated with teeth grinding:

  • Pain in your face or jaw
  • Chipped, cracked or worn down teeth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Face and jaw tension
  • Dislocation or locking of the jaw
  • Headache, particularly in the morning
  • Damaged enamel 
  • Tongue and cheek damage 
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) clicking, discomfort or pain
  • Ear pain
  • Insomnia
  • Depression, anxiety and stress
  • Eating disorders

Types of Teeth Grinding

There are two types of teeth grinding. Awake bruxism affects people while they are conscious. It’s more common and can be easier to treat since people are more likely to be aware of the behavior.

Sleep bruxism happens at night. It’s hard to treat since people often aren’t conscious of the behavior. It can also be more severe, since it interrupts sleep and is associated with complications including sleep apnea.

Causes of Teeth Grinding

Healthcare providers and researchers are still trying to understand what causes teeth grinding. There appears to be a genetic link, meaning that you’re more likely to grind your teeth if your siblings or parents do.

Here are the most common causes:

  • Stress: Anxiety, pain, and frustration often cause people to grind their teeth. 
  • Neurotransmitter imbalance: Some research shows an imbalance of neurotransmitters can play a role in teeth grinding.
  • Dietary triggers: Some research indicates that have a vitamin D deficiency and not getting enough calcium can contribute to teeth grinding.

What Medications Can Cause Teeth Grinding?

Some depression and anxiety medications including Prozac (fluoxetine) and paroxetine (Paxil) can trigger teeth grinding. This often begins about three weeks after starting one of these medications.

If you start grinding your teeth after starting one of these medications, talk to your healthcare provider about other treatment options.

How to Treat Teeth Grinding

If your teeth grinding is minor and doesn’t cause other symptoms, you don’t necessarily need treatment. But once you start noticing symptoms, it’s time to talk to your healthcare provider or dentist about treatments for teeth grinding. 

Treatment options include:

  • Wearing a mouth guard: It can absorb some of the pressure of teeth grinding to reduce damage to your teeth and jaw. It can be used to treat both awake and sleep bruxism. 
  • Behavior changes: Being mindful and teaching yourself to relax your face, jaw and teeth can help alleviate teeth grinding.
  • Biofeedback therapy: Biofeedback, or a way to control and be come aware of involuntary body movements, helps you recognize when you’re grinding your teeth. In turn, this will help you change the behavior. 
  • Medication changes: Medications can help regulate your neurotransmitters. If your bruxism is caused by medications changing your medications can help. 

Complications and Risk Factors Associated With Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding on its own isn’t serious. But it is associated with serious complications, including:

Are There Tests to Diagnose Teeth Grinding?

Oftentimes, your healthcare provider or dentist can diagnose teeth grinding based on your symptoms and an exam of your mouth. However, in some cases of sleep bruxism, they may want a sleep study or polysomnogram to better understand your teeth grinding and how it affects your sleep. 

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you are starting to notice more effects from teeth grinding, visit your healthcare provider or dentist. They will be able to talk to you about your habits and help you decide whether treatments like a mouthguard are right for you.

If you start grinding your teeth after starting a new medication, talk to the healthcare provider who prescribed it. Always see your healthcare provider or dentist if you have discomfort or pain when opening your mouth or sudden tooth pain. 


Teeth grinding, or bruxism, can cause dental damage, headache, insomnia, depression, and more. While researchers don’t know exactly what causes teeth grinding, stress and anxiety seem to play a role. If teeth grinding is affecting your health, reach out to your healthcare provider or dentist. 

A Word From Verywell

Stress and anxiety are common causes of teeth grinding. But if you grind your teeth it’s not your fault. Home remedies and behavioral changes to reduce grinding can help alleviate symptoms, but if you still find yourself grinding your teeth, reach out to a healthcare professional for guidance and treatment. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes teeth grinding?

    Stress and anxiety contribute to teeth grinding. But bruxism can also be caused by medication side effects and nutritional deficiencies.

  • Is teeth grinding serious?

    Teeth grinding in itself isn’t harmful, but it often leads to harmful complications, including depression, dental damage, and insomnia. 

  • Can teeth grinding be cured?

    It may not be possible to stop grinding your teeth entirely, but treatments like medication changes and mouth guards can help reduce the impact of teeth grinding. 

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Sleep Foundation. Bruxism: teeth grinding at night.

  2. MedlinePlus. Bruxism.

  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Bruxism.

  4. BMJ Best Practice. Bruxism.

  5. Alkhatatbeh MJ, Hmoud ZL, Abdul-Razzak KK, Alem EM. Self-reported sleep bruxism is associated with vitamin D deficiency and low dietary calcium intake: a case-control study. BMC Oral Health. 2021. doi:10.1186/s12903-020-01349-3

  6. Teoh L, Moses G. Drug-induced bruxism. Aust Prescr. doi:10.18773/austprescr.2019.048

By Kelly Burch
Kelly Burch is has written about health topics for more than a decade. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and more.