Teeth Grinding: Causes and Treatments

Woman grinding her teeth aggressively

Do you grind your teeth? If so, you’re not alone. Millions of people suffer from this problem every night, and some of them do so even during the day.

A survey by the Health Policy Institute of the American Dental Association (ADA) reported this March shows that a larger number of people are afflicted with teeth clenching and teeth grinding. Over 70 percent of dentists said there was an increase in the number of patients with this problem. In the fall of last year, only 60 percent of dentists reported this. Dentists are at the frontline of this condition because they diagnose and treat bruxism.

This article will discuss the effects and causes of both snoring and teeth grinding and available treatments.

What is Teeth Grinding?

The medical term for teeth grinding is bruxism. According to the National Sleep Foundation, it is a condition in which you clench your teeth and grind them back and forth with a force of up to 250 pounds. This often happens during the night, but some people do it during the day as well.

Bruxism can happen at any age, but it is most common in children ages six to eight and in adults ages 25 to 44, according to the ADA. The National Sleep Foundation reports that children usually outgrow it while most adults who grind their teeth continue to do so throughout their lives.

There are two types of bruxism. Awake bruxism happens when you clench your teeth while you are awake. It often happens when you are under a lot of stress.

Sleep bruxism is when you clench or grind your teeth while you sleep. This is the more common type of bruxism.

What Causes Teeth Grinding?

The exact cause of teeth grinding is not known, but there are several factors that may contribute to it, such as genetics, stress, caffeine, nicotine, and teeth issues.

Genetics means you may be more likely to grind your teeth if someone in your family does it. Chewing tobacco and smoking cigarettes can also contribute to teeth grinding.

An abnormal bite or missing or crooked teeth are also culprits. If your upper and lower jaws don’t line up correctly, this can put extra pressure on your teeth, causing you to grind them.

Stressful situations can also lead to clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth. This explains the increase in the number of people experiencing bruxism during the pandemic. Drinking caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, tea, and soda, can increase stress levels and lead to teeth grinding.

According to Mayo Clinic, teeth grinding can also be caused by mental health disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dementia, night terrors, sleep apnea, Parkinson’s disease, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), and epilepsy.

What are the Symptoms of Teeth Grinding?

The most common symptom of teeth grinding is a headache. Other symptoms may include:

  • Jaw pain or soreness
  • Facial pain or soreness
  • Earache
  • Dull, aching pain in the neck, shoulders, or back
  • Grinding noise when you move your jaw
  • Trouble sleeping due to mouth pain

Woman patient fitted with mouth guard

How is Teeth Grinding Diagnosed?

Your dentist will ask about your medical history and any symptoms you’re experiencing. He or she will also examine your teeth and jaw for any signs of damage.

In some cases, your dentist may recommend a sleep study to rule out other sleep disorders that may be causing your teeth grinding.

What are the Complications of Teeth Grinding?

Teeth grinding can lead to several complications.

Worn-Down Teeth

Over time, the constant grinding can wear down your tooth enamel and make your teeth more sensitive.

Jaw Problems

Teeth grinding can put a lot of stress on your temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which is the hinge that connects your lower jaw to your skull. This can lead to TMJ disorders, such as pain and clicking when you open your mouth.

Damage to Dental Restorations

If you have dental crowns, veneers, or bridges, teeth grinding can damage them.

Relationship Issues

When teeth grinding is loud enough to keep your partner awake, it can lead to relationship issues.

What are the Available Treatments for Teeth Grinding?

If you have mild teeth grinding, your dentist may suggest a “night guard” to protect your teeth from the grinding. This is a custom-made mouthguard that you wear at night.

If your teeth grinding is caused by missing or crooked teeth or a misaligned bite, your dentist will also address that problem.

Your dentist will refer you to a sleep specialist if the cause of your bruxism is sleep apnea. If your bruxism is due to a mental health issue, your dentist will refer you to a mental health specialist.

For more severe teeth grinding, your dentist may recommend Botox injections to relax the muscles in your jaw. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to correct an underlying problem, such as misaligned jaws.

While there is no sure cure for bruxism, treatment can help relieve the symptoms and prevent further damage to your teeth and jaw. If you think you may be grinding your teeth, see your dentist for an evaluation.


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