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

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Screening and diagnosis

During regular dental exams, your dentist likely will check for physical signs of bruxism. If you have signs of bruxism, your dentist may observe the condition over several visits to be sure of the problem before therapy starts.

If bruxism is confirmed, your dentist may try to determine its cause. He or she might ask about your current stress level, your general dental health, your daily medications, and whether you routinely drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages, especially in the evening. If you share your bedroom, your dentist may also ask your roommate or bed partner about your sleep habits, especially about any unusual grinding sounds heard during the night.

To evaluate the extent of bruxism, your dentist will examine your mouth and jaw, checking for tenderness in your jaw muscles and any obvious dental abnormalities, such as broken or missing teeth or poor tooth alignment. During this exam, your dentist will inspect your teeth, the underlying bone and the inside of your cheeks for damage caused by bruxism. Your dentist will also make a series of X-rays of your mouth and jaw.

A dental examination may detect other disorders that can cause similar jaw or ear pain, such as a middle ear infection (otitis media), temporomandibular disorder of your jaw joint and other dental disorders. If your dentist suspects that you have an ear infection, he or she will probably refer you to your primary care provider for further examination and treatment. If your dentist suspects a significant psychological component to your teeth grinding, you may be referred to a therapist or counselor.


Possible complications of bruxism may include:

  • Damage to your teeth or jaw

  • Worsening of existing dental disorders

  • Disturbing your roommate or sleep partner

Severe bruxism may also cause tension-type headaches, facial pain and temporomandibular disorders, which occur in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), located just in front of your ear and felt when opening and closing your mouth.


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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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Last Modified : 03/14/08 07:09 PM