Is bruxism a disorder or a behaviour? Rethinking the international consensus on defining and grading of bruxism

K. G. Raphael, V. Santiago, F. Lobbezoo

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Inspired by the international consensus on defining and grading of bruxism (Lobbezoo F, Ahlberg J, Glaros AG, Kato T, Koyano K, Lavigne GJ et al. J Oral Rehabil. 2013;40:2), this commentary examines its contribution and underlying assumptions for defining sleep bruxism (SB). The consensus' parsimonious redefinition of bruxism as a behaviour is an advance, but we explore an implied question: might SB be more than behaviour? Behaviours do not inherently require clinical treatment, making the consensus-proposed 'diagnostic grading system' inappropriate. However, diagnostic grading might be useful, if SB were considered a disorder. Therefore, to fully appreciate the contribution of the consensus statement, we first consider standards and evidence for determining whether SB is a disorder characterised by harmful dysfunction or a risk factor increasing probability of a disorder. Second, the strengths and weaknesses of the consensus statement's proposed 'diagnostic grading system' are examined. The strongest evidence-to-date does not support SB as disorder as implied by 'diagnosis'. Behaviour alone is not diagnosed; disorders are. Considered even as a grading system of behaviour, the proposed system is weakened by poor sensitivity of self-report for direct polysomnographic (PSG)-classified SB and poor associations between clinical judgments of SB and portable PSG; reliance on dichotomised reports; and failure to consider SB behaviour on a continuum, measurable and definable through valid behavioural observation. To date, evidence for validity of self-report or clinician report in placing SB behaviour on a continuum is lacking, raising concerns about their potential utility in any bruxism behavioural grading system, and handicapping future study of whether SB may be a useful risk factor for, or itself a disorder requiring treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)791-798
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of oral rehabilitation
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


  • bruxism
  • diagnosis
  • grinding
  • risk factor
  • sleep bruxism
  • temporomandibular disorders
  • validity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Dentistry


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