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Bruxism / Teeth grinding or jaw clenching

Bite collapse due to aggressive bruxism habit.

Figure 1: Bruxism (tooth grinding) led to the loss of nearly 50% of this patient’s visible tooth structure.

Bruxism is a chronic habit of clenching or grinding the teeth. Its significance lies in the potential damage the habit can cause to the teeth, jaw muscles, and jaw joints (all three elements of the body’s stomatognathic system).

Severe wear (attrition) like that shown in Figure 1 can be a serious problem, and extremely costly to treat. If all the teeth are involved, the jaws may rotate together more than they should. This is known as loss of vertical dimension of occlusion (bite collapse).

Bite collapse can result in damage to the jaw joints; severe pain or dysfunction in the jaw joints (TMJ dysfunction); excessive muscle contraction forces as the closing muscles of the jaw shorten (which can accelerate the destruction); tooth fractures, and tooth loss; aggravation of periodontal disease (secondary occlusal trauma); shortening of the lower face height (which changes one’s appearance); an inverted smile (corners of the mouth sag); frequent cracking or chapping at the corners of the mouth (angular cheilitis); and problems chewing.

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Author: Thomas J. Greany, D.D.S. / Editor: Ken Lambrecht

This page was last updated on March 2, 2018.

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