What is Bruxism?

Medications can cause you to grind your teeth

Woman clenching her teeth
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Do you grind your teeth or clench your jaws? You may be struggling with bruxism, which is the medical term for the usually unconscious behavior of grinding your teeth.

Causes of Bruxism

Frustration, stress, tension, anxiety, and suppressed anger are usually considered the culprits causing this problem. However, grinding teeth can also be attributed to some medications such as antipsychotics and antidepressants, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac (fluoxetine), Zoloft (sertraline), and Paxil (paroxetine).


Symptoms of Bruxism
Bruxism can occur at night or during the day. Symptoms include:

  • Damage to teeth such as worn enamel, chips, and flattened tops
  • Teeth that are oversensitive to cold, heat, or pressure
  • Morning headaches
  • Noise from the grinding or clenching that wakes your sleeping partner
  • Pain in the jaw or face
  • Earaches
  • Headaches
  • Loose, chipped or fractured teeth
  • Chewed places on the tongue or cheek

Treatment for Bruxism

In that teeth grinding has predominantly been viewed as a response to stress, treatment has focused on alleviating the anxiety through stress management and behavior modification. Dental interventions such as mouth guards or correction are also quite common.

Some medications may be effective in reducing teeth grinding, but more research is needed. These medications, which include muscle relaxants and Botox injections, can be used temporarily for grinding teeth when it's not caused by a medication.

They are also effective as an add-on treatment when your medications are causing the problem.

If your bruxism is caused by medication, your doctor may consider either changing your dose or putting you on a different medication.

Effects of Bruxism

Most of the time, bruxism is not severe enough to cause major problems, but if you have severe bruxism, complications may arise such as:

  • Pain in your face
  • Tension headaches
  • Damage to your teeth, crowns or other dental work
  • Depression
  • Receding gums
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders
  • Jaw damage

Self-Care for Pain Caused By Bruxism

If your bruxism is causing you pain, you can try these steps at home to help:

  • Make sure you drink lots of fluids. Water is best.
  • If your jaw is sore, use either ice or wet heat.
  • Don't chew gum as this can make the pain worse.
  • Stay away from hard candies, nuts, steak and other foods that are difficult to chew.
  • Work on relaxing your face throughout the day. 
  • Do whatever you can to reduce your stress because stress makes bruxism worse. Take a bubble bath, go for a walk, or listen to your favorite music.
  • Learn relaxation exercises such as mindfulness, deep breathing or meditation.
  • Avoid caffeine or other stimulating food or drinks before bed. Alcohol and smoking in the evening can also make bruxism worse.
  • Stay on top of your dental care. If your bruxism becomes worse, your dentist will probably be able to tell.
  • Massage your shoulders, neck, and face.
  • Get plenty of sleep.

If you have symptoms of bruxism, be sure to discuss your options with your health care providers. You do not have to live with the pain or problems associated with grinding teeth.


"Bruxism (teeth grinding)." Mayo Clinic (2014).

"Bruxism." MedLine Plus, U.S. National Library of Medicine (2014).