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Bruxism and Temporomandibular Disorders - Topic Overview

Bruxism is the unconscious act of grinding the teeth. This usually occurs at night during sleep. Bruxism has been observed in people of all ages, including young children. It is a contributing factor in temporomandibular disorders (TMDs).

Like daytime teeth clenching, bruxism is often considered to be stress-related. Sleep disorders are also a cause of bruxism. The negative effects of bruxism include:

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  • Wearing down of the teeth over time.
  • Lingering muscle tension and spasm.
  • Undue stress on the jaw (temporomandibular) joint.
  • Tiredness of the jaw muscles.

If your child grinds his or her teeth, don't be too concerned. Bruxism is not necessarily a sign of stress in your child. Pediatric dentists have various theories about what causes bruxism, ranging from some irritating feature in the mouth, such as misaligned teeth, to allergies, to stress. Because a child's teeth and jaw grow and change so quickly, bruxism is common and is not usually a damaging habit in need of treatment.

If bruxism or teeth clenching (which is what you are most likely to observe) is causing you trouble, consider seeking treatment, reducing stress, or at least developing new ways of coping with stress. Exercise is an excellent way for your body to process stress. Relaxation skills and activities can also make a big difference in how stress affects your body and mind. Bruxism related to sleep disorders can be treated with a low dose of antidepressant. Hypnosis, which addresses subconscious behavior, may also be helpful.

See the topic Stress Management. Also see the topic Mental Health Problems and Mind-Body Wellness.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 11, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

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American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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