Signs and Symptoms of Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)

Bruxism causes tempromandibular joint syndrome (TMJ), in which the cartilage around the joints of the upper and lower jaws becomes irritated. This irritation can cause pain in the jaw and ears. Headaches associated with joint and muscle strain are common symptoms associated with bruxism.

The occlusal (meeting) surface of the upper and lower teeth can be ground down so much that an imbalance in closure between the left and right sides of the mouth is created, which can result in periodontal disease and structural stress to the tissues and roots of the teeth.

Like most sleep disorders, bruxism affects people other than those with the condition. The sound of teeth grinding can be quite loud and disruptive to bed partners or roommates. As a result, those who must cope with their partner's habitual grinding develop secondary symptoms, like poor sleep. In fact, it is often a partner or family member who detects bruxism.

Bruxism Diagnosis

A dentist usually detects or suspects bruxism when, during a routine checkup, he or she discovers the characteristic wear on the teeth. Wear associated with grinding is most evident on the molars, which are in the back of the mouth. The diagnosis is generally based on the patient's dental history and a dentist's careful reexamination.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 30 Nov 2000

Last Modified: 03 Sep 2015