Recreational Drugs : How Ecstasy (MDMA) Causes Bruxism

Image showing several recreational drugs in form of pills and injectable formulations. It highlights the message to stop using drugs for better health and shows that drug usage causes bruxism.
Recreational drugs cause bruxism

Recreational drugs like ecstasy, also called MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), have been identified as a possible cause for bruxism.

The intensity of teeth grinding and number of episodes increase with increasing dosage of such drugs. But, how do drugs cause clenching ? let’s find out.

Table of contents

Which recreational drugs cause bruxism ?

A number of addictive substances, including alcohol, can cause teeth grinding.

Heroin, Methamphetamine, Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), Nicotine, Piperazines have been found to induce bruxism with intensity of grinding depending upon amount taken and frequency of taking drugs.

How does Ecstasy (MDMA) cause bruxism ?

Ecstasy (MDMA) stops/inhibits jaw opening reflex (JOR). Thus jaws remain interlocked by means of teeth, this causes grinding and clenching of teeth.

What is Jaw Opening Reflex (JOR) ?

Recreational drugs cause jaw opening muscles to not work properly hence jaw does not open, this causes Bruxism.
Drugs cause inhibition of jaw opening reflex

There are a group of distinct muscles which help to close and open our mouths. This are called muscles of mastication. They are divided into jaw depressors (opening) and jaw elevators (closing) muscles.

Jaw opening reflex prevents tight closure of mouth and protects the teeth and gums from excessive forces and is done by a jaw depressor (opening) muscle called digastric muscle ( anterior belly)

When you clench your mouth, signal to open your mouth (afferent signals) are created by receptors in your mouth. This signals are transmitted by Nor-adrenaline receptors and they cause the anterior belly of digastric to contract and hence open your mouth.

This entire pathway constitutes the jaw opening reflex.

Recreational drugs like ecstasy (MDMA) inhibit the Nor-adrenaline receptors and hence stop the signal transmission. Thus the jaw does not open, that is, the jaw opening reflex is inhibited and the teeth remain in clenched position.

Closing remarks

Image shows that do Seek help for addiction.
Removal of underlying cause is important

Recreational drugs and bruxism have a positive co-relation and scientific studies show that 88% of drug abusers show “jaw opening reflex inhibition”.

As such, reducing the addiction also forms an important part of bruxism treatment. Remember! Bruxism can be treated only by treating the underlying cause and not just it’s symptoms.


de Baat, C., Verhoeff, M., Ahlberg, J., Manfredini, D., Winocur, E., Zweers, P., Rozema, F., Vissink, A., & Lobbezoo, F. (2021). Medications and addictive substances potentially inducing or attenuating sleep bruxism and/or awake bruxism. Journal of oral rehabilitation48(3), 343–354.

Arrue A, Gómez FM, Giralt MT. Effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (‘Ecstasy’) on the jaw-opening reflex and on the alpha-adrenoceptors which regulate this reflex in the anesthetized rat. Eur J Oral Sci. 2004 Apr;112(2):127-33. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0722.2004.00114.x. PMID: 15056109.

Published by StephyK

Dentist with years of experience in private dental hospitals.