Bruxism (teeth grinding and clenching)

Bruxism (teeth grinding and clenching)

What is bruxism?

Bruxism is characterized by teeth grinding or clenching without any movement from the mastication muscles.

Because this habit does not fill any purpose, bruxism is defined as a parafunctional activity.

People who grind their teeth are called bruxers.

Teeth grinding

The characteristic sound of teeth grinding is produced by lateral (side to side), protrusive or retrusive movements that cause friction between teeth. In this case, we talk about dynamic bruxism, because of the lower jaw movements. Most people who have heard someone grinding their teeth consider it to produce the most horrible and unforgettable sound!

People who clench their teeth without grinding them emit little or no sound because the movement involved is a vertical pressure on the teeth, without any lateral movement of the mandible; this is called static bruxism. A person can suffer from bruxism without making noise.

In theory, upper and lower teeth should never be in contact, except when chewing and swallowing (approximately 20 cumulative minutes per day). However, the situation is quite different for people suffering from bruxism.


A large part of the population will experience bruxism at least once in their life; for some of them, bruxism will become a chronic disorder. Almost as many children (14%) as adults and elderly (11%) are affected on a regular basis, i.e. several times a week. Bruxism also touches equally both sexes.

According to studies conducted on this subject, bruxism tends to decrease with age, as most reported cases are among individuals aged between 20 and 50.

Bruxism: a disease

Bruxism is considered by many researchers as a full-fledged sleeping sickness. It can potentially cause other disorders, ranging from snoring to sleep apnea (respiratory arrest during sleep). Some even link bruxism to concentration problems, in both adults and children, and learning problems among school-age children.

Chronic bruxism is a disease that tends to worsen with time. Indeed, the more you grind or clench your teeth, the more your masticatory muscles will tend to tense up. An increase in the contraction of these muscles can result in tightness and more intense grinding, creating a vicious circle from which it is difficult to escape.