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Sleep-related bruxism (tooth grinding)

Geoffrey E Gerstner, DDS, MS, PhD
Section Editor
Alon Y Avidan, MD, MPH
Deputy Editor
April F Eichler, MD, MPH


Sleep-related bruxism involves activation of the masticatory muscles, resulting in tooth clenching and grinding during sleep. The prevalence of bruxism during sleep peaks in childhood and progressively declines with age. Although often asymptomatic, frequent bruxism may become clinically significant when it interferes with sleep or results in tooth wear or jaw discomfort.

This topic will review the clinical presentation, diagnosis, and management of sleep-related bruxism. Temporomandibular disorders and other sleep-related movement disorders are reviewed separately. (See "Temporomandibular disorders in adults" and "Approach to abnormal movements and behaviors during sleep".)


Bruxism is defined as repetitive jaw-muscle activity characterized by clenching or grinding of the teeth and/or by bracing or thrusting of the mandible [1,2].

Bruxism is most common during sleep, when it is referred to as sleep-related bruxism. Wakeful bruxism is a less common circadian phenotype of bruxism and probably differs etiologically from sleep-related bruxism; it is seen primarily in association with neurodevelopmental disorders such as Rett syndrome. (See "Rett syndrome: Genetics, clinical features, and diagnosis".)


Based largely on cross-sectional survey studies and self report, sleep-related bruxism affects 15 to 40 percent of children and 8 to 10 percent of adults [3-8].

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Apr 27, 2017.
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