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Bruxism - (tooth-grinding or teeth-clenching)
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Bruxism - (tooth-grinding or teeth-clenching)

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Doctors don't completely understand the causes of bruxism. In some cases, the problem is abnormal alignment of upper and lower teeth (malocclusion).

More often, psychological factors cause bruxism, including:

  • Anxiety, stress or tension

  • Suppressed anger or frustration

  • Aggressive, competitive or hyperactive personality type

Bruxism can sometimes occur as a complication of severe brain injury or as a symptom of rare neuromuscular diseases involving the face. It can be an uncommon side effect of some psychiatric medications including antidepressants such as sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem) and others.

In children, bruxism may be related to growth and development. Some researchers think children brux because their top and bottom teeth don't fit together comfortably. Others believe that children grind their teeth because of tension, anger or allergy problems or as a response to pain from an earache or teething. Bruxism occurs in as many as one in three children, often around the ages of 5 and 6. Although most children outgrow bruxism, even short-term teeth grinding or clenching can cause damage to permanent teeth.

Risk factors

These factors increase your risk of bruxism:

  • Stress. Increased anxiety or stress can lead to teeth grinding.

  • Age. Bruxism is common between the teen years and the 40s. It tends to decrease with age.

  • Caffeine or tobacco use. Stimulants such as caffeine and tobacco may cause your body to produce more adrenaline, which may worsen bruxism.

When to seek medical advice

Because bruxism often goes unnoticed, be especially aware of its signs and symptoms. See your doctor or dentist if you have pain in your jaw, face or ear, if your teeth appear misaligned, or if you have difficulty biting or chewing. Also consult your doctor or dentist if your bed partner complains that you make a grinding noise while you sleep.


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