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What is Bruxism?

By Dr. Randall LeDuke, DDS

What is BruxismBruxism is the clinical term referring to excessive and repetitive grinding of the teeth. It may, or may not, include forceful clenching on back teeth. Bruxism is a para-functional activity, meaning an activity that serves no positive purpose related to normal function like eating or talking. Clenching or grinding the posterior teeth back and forth is fairly common with a reported prevalence range from 10 to 30% of the general population. Many people who engage in this activity do so with no awareness of the habit and their symptoms are not understood to be associated with a clenching or grinding problem. But they are often very much aware of the negative consequences of bruxism that can include hypersensitive teeth, sore, stiff, aching jaw muscles, headaches, excessive tooth wear, and damage to their teeth.

Two Types of Bruxism
A movement disorder of the masticatory system, bruxism is divided into two types: nocturnal bruxism that occurs during our sleep time, and awake bruxism that occurs throughout our working day. Many sufferers experience both varieties. The rhythmic clench and release cycle of nocturnal bruxism during sleep can result in tooth trauma including excessive, rapid wear of the occluding tooth surfaces, introduction of stress cracks in posterior teeth and even tooth fractures or pulp death. The masseter and temporalis muscles, the ones you can feel on each side of your face when you clench your teeth, can become painful and stiff. Squeezing these muscles for hours during your sleep period can result in you waking up with headache pain, a stiff jaw and sore jaw joints. Daytime bruxers also often find themselves with tender, sensitive teeth, sore jaw muscles and headache pain in the afternoon and evenings.

The causation of bruxism is not fully understood but there are factors that tend to stimulate the activity and worsen the consequences. Bruxism is thought to be associated with stress and anxiety, such that in periods of emotional instability or worry, the symptoms of bruxism become worse. Bruxism has also been associated with certain medications, particularly antidepressants and medications used to treat ADD and ADHD. Persons with certain diseases of the nervous system, such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s, have been observed to develop jaw clenching and grinding habits. Also in some persons, orthodontic misalignment of teeth can trigger bruxing activity.

If you have experienced symptoms of unusually sensitive teeth, sore facial musculature and headache pain, sore, stiff jaw joints or have noticed abnormal wear on your teeth, you need to consult your dentist.

The symptoms of bruxism can often be reduced or eliminated through dental treatment, orthodontic therapy or use of mouthguards. A mouthguard is a dental appliance created on a model of your mouth. Nighttime use of nightguards can eliminate grinding and clenching, allow the clenching muscles to rest and heal and allow sensitive teeth to recover.

If you regularly wake up with a morning headache and stiff jaws, or if you suffer from sore, sensitive back teeth, please make an appointment. We may be able to help you control your symptoms of bruxism. Please call Dr. LeDuke at 731-885-0497.

Dr. Randall LeDuke is a graduate of the University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee College of Dentistry. He is a past president of the Tennessee Academy of General Dentistry, ( and has achieved AGD Master status, one of only 48 AGD Master dentists in Tennessee.

Dr. LeDuke holds his permit to administer Limited Conscious Sedation, having received training in this area through the Dental Organization for Conscious Sedation. Cosmetic Dentistry is a passion with Dr. LeDuke. He is a member of the Tennessee Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and serves on its Board of Directors. Dr. LeDuke is a general dentist, not an Orthodontic Specialist. However, he has treated hundreds of children and adults within his dental practice over the past twenty-five years. Conventional braces, clear ceramic braces and clear aligner orthodontics ( and are available at our office. Dr. LeDuke has a special interest in interceptive therapies for achieving improved development and alignment of the jaws of young, growing patients.

Please visit our website Smile Gallery at for some examples. Most dental services can be accessed within our office, eliminating the need for out-of-town referrals. Our patients appreciate Dr. LeDuke’s depth of experience and advanced training through years of continuing dental education.

For more information or a consultation appointment with Dr. LeDuke, please call:

214 West Church
Union City, TN 38261

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